NO POWER

Brokers exploit Laikipia milk farmers four years after idle cooler was launched

The county government has promised to revive the Sh3.8 million plant to end exploitation by brokers.

In Summary

• Plant meant to benefit hundreds of farmers in Tigithi location in Laikipia Central.

• The equipment given by the national government has a capacity to store 5,000 litres of milk daily but has never worked.

Laikipia Deputy Governor John Mwaniki leads other county workers and farmers during a field day on Tuesday.
FARMERS WOES: Laikipia Deputy Governor John Mwaniki leads other county workers and farmers during a field day on Tuesday.
Image: ELIUD WAITHAKA

By Eliud Waithaka    @Waithaka06

A milk cooler plant meant to benefit hundreds of farmers in Tigithi location, Laikipia Central, has been idle over the past four years because of electricity. 

The Sh3.8 million equipment given by the national government has a capacity to store 5,000 litres of milk daily but has not worked since it was commissioned by former Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu at Matanya shopping centre. It has yet to be connected to the power grid.

Project chairman Linus Mathenge says farmers have been left at the mercy of unscrupulous brokers who exploit their vulnerability to buy milk at throw-away prices.

"Farmers have been making huge losses owing to the stalled project, which only require power connection and sanitation blocks. The government should intervene to salvage the situation," he told the Star.

On Tuesday, however, county Trade and Cooperative executive Nicholas Biwott sought to assure residents that the cooler will be operational soon to ward off brokers who have been milking farmers dry.

Biwott spoke during a field day in Waguthiru village. Farmers were shown the different types of fodder that fit the Laikipia weather and how to prepare them in a way that makes them stay longer.  The county is known for its fodder production that supports cattle farming.

Farmers were urged to adopt new technologies and certified seeds to grow fodder for their livestock to maximise yield. Deputy Governor John Mwaniki appealed to farmers to shift from rain-fed agriculture to full irrigation, saying the county's annual rainfall cannot sustain farming.

Mwaniki represented Governor Ndiritu Muriithi. He noted that the county has formed a new industrialisation directorate that will focus more on cooperatives where farmers will be coming together to market their produce, especially milk.

This will be achieved following after milk coolers are installed to enable farmers to pull their yields together for better sales.

“Through such field training for farmers, you will be in a position to learn new technologies. And with the increased extension officers who are in the rural areas, farmers will be able to get first-hand information on best practices," Mwaniki said.

Executive Biwott called on those who get the knowledge to extend the same to their neighbours so all farmers can benefit. He urged farmers to go for the best seeds when it comes to fodder as Laikipia plans to increase milk production.