Initiatives by the county government of Kakamega to put more cash into the pockets of farmers by promoting dairy farming instead of relying on the traditional non-performing sugarcane growing continue to bear fruit.
Sugarcane covers the largest area under crop in the county. Unfortunately, most small-scale farmers have not benefited from it because of lack of economies of scale.
Over-reliance on sugarcane farming as the only cash crop has been blamed for the high poverty incidents in the region. The sugar sub-sector, which supports the region’s economy, is currently unstable as it is threatened by cheap imports and high production costs.
Drive to promote dairy farming as an alternative to sugarcane farming kicked off in earnest in 2013, according to former JKUAT university don in charge of agriculture, livestock, Prof Philip Kutima.
“The initial support was in facilitating affordable credit to small scale farmers through cooperatives capacity building, culminating in a deal by foreign partners to build a milk plant and the one cow initiative,” says Prof Kutima.
Farmers in the county are smiling all the way to the bank as the county government’s farmer empowerment project One
success story lives on. Speaking at Mayoni, Matungu sub county during the pass-on of heifers to the programme’s second beneficiaries, Kakamega Deputy Governor Prof Philip Museve Kutima commended the first beneficiaries, saying the aim of One Cow initiative was to have a grade cow in every household to increase milk production in the county and ensure a constant supply of milk for Malava Dairy plant.
Under the project, the first beneficiaries are to pass on their cow’s offspring to another person – from the same ward – identified by the county government. Earlier on, Kutima toured the home of Andrew Keya at Khalaba ward and lauded him as a farmer committed to empowering the community.
Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya launched the One Cow Initiative in 2015 to boost milk production and upgrade local breeds as part of the efforts to promote dairy farming in the region.
Under the programme, farmers are given a dairy cow each with instructions to pass over the calves to other farmers when it is grown. This aims to ensure every household owns a cow in 10 years. “They will have a ready market for their milk and may acquire skills in agricultural colleges on animal husbandry,” Oparanya said.
Earlier, local politics undermined the successful delivery of the Sh50 million project. Officials were overwhelmed when implementing Phase One of the project that saw 10 heifers deployed in each of the 60 wards in the county.
Austerity measures were ignored during purchase and delivery of 600 high breeding in-calf dairy crosses that were given to farmers groups in December 2015 that saw 57 die and a late discovery that almost half the heifers procured were not in-calf.
Worse, the supplier of the dairy animals duped farmers that all the heifers were three months in-calf at the time of sale as per the condition of that contract. Although all the heifers were to calve by July 2016, only 84 cows had calved.
While county officials say half of the 1,200 cows supplied under phase one and two have since calved, farmers say some family heads sold off their cows and that acountability remains poor.
The county government is also spearheading construction of a Sh34 million milk processing plant at Bukura Agricultural College in a joint venture between the county government and the German and Dutch governments. With a capacity to handle 10,000 litres of milk daily, the Bukura milk processing plant is the first in the Western region after the collapse of Kitinda Dairy Farmers’ Co-operative Society in Bungoma county.
Kakamega faces a deficiency of fresh milk and relies on imports from Nandi county. The plant has been producing yoghurt, pasteurised milk, fermented milk (maziwa
lala), cheese, butter and fresh milk.
The plant is expected to benefit dairy farmers from Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties. Though the project is part of the college’s value addition chain, it is expected to provide a viable avenue for farmers to diversify from over-reliance on sugarcane.
Prof Kutima says the county government has already set aside Sh50 million for the plant construction and encouraged farmers to diversify agriculture to be self sufficient
The latest move to promote dairy farming is the publication of proposed laws for public debate, after the sucessful establshment of the milk processing plant that has seen more farmers embrace dairy farming.
Kakamega County Assembly Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Marketing and Cooperatives Committee will lead a public participation exercise to seek views from the public on the Kakamega County Dairy Development Corporation Bill, 2017.
The public participation forums were to present an opportunity for dairy farming stakeholders to scrutinise and give views on the draft by-law. The Bill, sponsored by the County Executive has been forwarded to the Assembly through the Committee, to commence the legislation process.
The bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the Kakamega County Dairy Corporation, to make provision for the respective roles of the corporation in dairy and related matters in furtherance of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution and for the connected purposes. The other purpose of the bill is to provide a legal framework for dairy value chain development.
Some of the functions include: engaging in the commercial rearing and breeding of dairy livestock, create a ready market for dairy farmers and to undertake and promote research in the field of dairy training facilities. It is also expected to facilitate acquisition of farm inputs and machinery subsidy, implement and manage the One Cow Initiative.
Members of the Agriculture Committee say the Bill will be subjected to public participation as stipulated law. “Once the Bill is passed to Law it will enhance the management and promotion of the dairy farming in the county,” Paul Asiachi said.