- Kakamega county has so far distributed 1,790 dairy cows and the beneficiaries have passed on 916 heifers to other farmers since 2015.
- This has in effect increased the livestock population in the county from 147,720 in 2016 to 177, 578 in 2021.
A programme started by Kakamega county five years ago to improve local livestock breeds and increase milk production has started paying dividends.
The programme involves distribution of grade cows to farmers under the One Cow Initiative and development of smart farms launched by the Kakamega County Dairy Development Corporation.
The two programmes aim at improving social and economic standards of living for the residents through improved nutrition and self-employment to generate income at the household level, besides improving milk production.
The smart farms are also designated as learning centres for local farmers and students from schools and institutions and also provide ready market for milk from farmers in the county.
The programme is part of the county government’s plan to develop the dairy sub-sector in the county to help the residents diversify from over reliance on the not-doing-well sugarcane farming and boost food security.
The county government has so far distributed 1,790 dairy cows and the beneficiaries have passed on 916 heifers to other farmers since 2015. This has in effect increased the livestock population in the county from 147,720 in 2016 to 177, 578 in 2021.
This has increased milk production from 131.7 million litres of milk in 2015 to 182.6 million in 2021, translating to a 39 per cent increase.
Under the programme, the county government bought and supplied dairy cows to selected farmers.
The benefiting farmers would then pass on the calves to others in their groups to spread the dairy cows further in readiness for the milk factory that would then provide the ready market for the produce.
The four operational smart farms in Lurambi, Matungu, Khwisero and Malava subcounties have a total of 123 animals, 35 lactating cows, 20 dry cows, 47 heifers, weaners 10 and calves 11. Production by the four farms account for 234,000 litres of the county's annual milk production.
The dairy industry contributes more than 40 per cent of of the county's gross domestic product and has the potential to be a major employer, especially for the youth in agri-business.
KDDC chief executive Dr Isaac Lubutsi said that the county will construct six smart dairies this financial year that are expected to further increase milk production.
“The upward trend is expected to continue because the heifer that were passed on to new farmers are not yet on production but are already in calf,” said.
The county is in the process of establishing smart farms in the remaining eight subcounties, he said.
Dr Lubutsi said that the county is in the process of developing and strengthening co-operative societies for organised production and milk marketing.
The drive to increase milk production in the county is meant to facilitate operation of the Sh150 million Kakamega milk processing factory in Malava subcounty that is currently under construction.
The factory will process 50,000 litres of milk daily once complete.
Deputy Governor Ayub Savula, who oversees the Trade and Tourism docket, said construction of the milk factory is 75 per cent done.
“We shall hand over the factory to the Department of Agriculture once its complete to operationalise it,” he said.
He said that USAID had earlier indicated it would support equipping the factory but it never came to be.
Savula said that the county was collaborating with other key stakeholders in dairy value chain, among them, Kelcop, KCSA, ASDSP, GIZ, FAO and FIPs.
“The best thing to do will be for us as a county to complete the factory and lease it to a serious investor to run it,” he said.
The programme is already changing lives of residents involved in its implementation.
Leunce Aura from Ekavala village in Lurambi said that the county government has improved nutrition in his family by ensuring availability of milk, which also means him income.
“This programme has made some of us know that we can also rear dairy cows because we used to believe that only rich people can own grade cows,” he said.
“We don’t have to stand along the road or shops with milk the whole mornings and evenings waiting to sell like before. You just need to go to the smart farm here in Bukura and deliver your milk and wait for payments, either weekly or monthly."
Abdala Salasya from Harambee in Matungu said that the programme has helped him solve the issue of malnutrition in his family.
“Initially my family took strong tea daily because I could not afford milk. Now my family’s health has improved greatly and I am grateful to the county government because I am now leading a signified life,” he said.
Barasa said that out of the 10 litres his cow gives him daily, he uses two litres and sells the rest to raise money for other needs, adding that the proceeds support education of his children.
Everlyn Imbiakha from Lurambi said that her family gets its daily needs from the sale of milk from her cow.
“I sell eight litres daily to villagers but one of the heifers the cow has delivered is about to be served and the milk will increase and I will make more money,” she said.
Imbiakha said that the smart farms have provided ready market for milk and payments are prompt
“This animal is my father and mother. I have given it my all and, as such, it has calved six times since I was given the cow eight years ago,” she said.
(edited by Amol Awuor)