Kwale County is one of the Counties considered to be food insecure with high poverty levels. Since devolution, the county government of Kwale under the leadership of H.E Salim Mvurya the governor, has initiated and implemented several projects towards addressing food and economic insecurity.
One of these initiatives is the dairy cattle project that has recorded a great impact to the livestock farmers. This project promotes dairy cattle keeping to address the challenge of low farm income as well as food security and nutrition given that there is high demand for milk since most of the milk consumed is from outside the County. Milk prices are also high ranging from ksh: 80 -100 per liter of fresh raw milk while processed milk goes for Ksh: 180 per litre. There is also good potential for dairy production in the mixed farming livelihood zone.
The Kwale County dairy project that started in 2013 has seen many farmers lives transformed. Among the farmers are those from Kikoneni Dairy Farmers Group, who are also members of Kidzo Dairy Co-operative.
The group that comprises of 25 members among 115 of Kidzo Dairy Co-operative has recorded an earning of Ksh.3 million, in less than a year after receiving 10 heifers, according to their Chairman,Mohammed. “We have been able to earn Ksh.3 million between the months of August, 2015 and April 2016 from the ten dairy cows that our group received from the County Government of Kwale in May, 2015”
Mr Fakii says that each member sells at between 10-20 liters per day at Ksh. 60.This translates to between, 000-36,000 monthly earning per farmer.
The project involves training of dairy farmer groups on livestock husbandry which includes; housing, feeding, breeding and disease control. After training, each beneficiary is expected to take up the task of putting up a unit and establish enough fodder.
Some of the farmers who narrated their experiences were upbeat with the project’s outcome on their finances and family.
Mr.Kassim Gao is one of the beneficiaries whom we found repairing his cowshed after some damages due tohas named his heifer and it’s calve names that he states are symbolic to their impact.
He says “I named my heifer Malipo because (analipa gharama ya maisha) he is taking care of my livelihood and the calf is Zawadi (Gift) because I will pass it on to another farmer at no cost yet he will improve his/her life just like the heifer has done to me.”
The father of nine adds “This project has improved my finances which have enabled me to carter for my child’s High school fees and other basic items with ease”
In the first two years of devolution, the dairy cattle project was implemented in Tsimba/Golini, Mkongani, Pongwe/kikoneni and Kubo south wards, covering a total of 96 farmers with each beneficiary receiving one in-calf heifer. Upon calving, the first beneficiaries are supposed to pass on first heifer calves to other members of the group who did not receive in round one until all members of the group have a cow each.
Another beneficiary, Mr. Francis Mutua, who is a member of Majimboni Dairy Self Help Group in Kubo South, had full of praise for this project when a county team visitedinformed the team that he is currently able to get between 8 and 10 litres daily during this dry spell but was getting 18 liters daily in the wet season which he sells at per litre making at least in a bad month and enabling him to pay school fees with ease.
In addition, his family nutrition has improved unlike before when he would buy little milk depending on the money that he had.
Mr. Mutua adds “I never thought of ever owning this kind of cattle. I just kept on admiring other farmers who had such dairy cattle but never entertained the thought due to its high price”.
In addition to money and nutrition, the project gives Mr. Mutua enough manure for his farm from the slurry hence saving a lot on expenses he used to incur for purchase of fertilizer. He says “I do not have to worry about fertilizer costs anymore”
Mrs. Felistus Katunge (Mutua’s wife), gladly joins in the conversation and says “This project has never disappointed us. In fact we have been able to purchase another cattle through the sale of milk. Although it’s a local breed, we didn’t expect to buy it so soon.
Another farmer, Mr. Jacob Kimatu who is also the chairman to Mwanzo Mpya Dairy Farmers Co-operative, says the dairy project has united farmers who through the Co-operative are able to address their challenges and work out on them timely. Mr. Kimatu says “During our co-operative meetings in every Wednesday, we are able to share our hurdles and solutions”
He adds “We have now established a saving culture as we want to put up an outstanding income generating project and also make sure every member of the co-operative owns a dairy cattle through our profits instead of waiting for the county government to give us others which might take longer”
After recording an increase in milk production, the Kikoneni Dairy Farmers Group,decided to re-organize the management of their Kidzo co-operative which was started through donor support but was near collapse due to mismanagement and low milk production.
According to Mr.Kassim, the farmers have a reliable market for their produce, therefore they are expecting to reap more once a cooling plant that is in its final stages, will be running. He says “The County Government is putting up a second cooling plant in Mwangwei after the existing Kidzo inwill enable us store more milk that can be sold to far flung areas which we currently can’t access with fresh milk”
The Department’s CEC Hon. Joan concurs with the farmer. “Once the cooling plant is functional, there will be an instant value addition impact, considering that the milk will have a longer life span, farmers will have control over their prices hence have improved prices benefiting all members” She adds “This will be unlike in the current situation where the prices vary between, depending on the Farmer’s locality.”
To support the dairy project, the county government has rolled out county wide programs on disease control through dip rehabilitation/construction and biannual vaccinations programs. Also to support breeding, the County government has revived Artificial Insemination (AI) across and as a result, most of the cows that calved down have already been inseminated.
According to the chief officer for Agriculture, Livestock Production and Fisheries, Mr. Hamisi Dzila the main aim of the dairy project is, for self and community economic development for improved food security and wealth creation, through consumption and sale of milk and is expected raise economies of the local farmers.
The dairy cows given to the beneficiaries are in calf, the first calf if an heifer, is passed on (given to another member of the group), the second calf is passed back (given back to department of livestock) to be given to new groups. After the pass on and pass back the dairy cow ceases to belong to group and the farmer owns it.