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    Eldoret children's home supplies the country with fresh cheese and milk

    Eldoret’s Baraka Farm, founded by Phyllis Keino and owned by Lewa Children’s Home-Trust, is one of the top dairy establishments in Kenya. The farm, which also houses the Lewa Children’s home and the Kipkeino School was initially focused on wheat and maize cultivation until 1993, when Dutch Jos Creemers took over operations and diverted most of the efforts into dairy.

    Today the farm has more than 100 dairy cows, which supply milk, yoghurt and cheese to the Lewa Children’s Home and the Kipkeino School. 90% of output leftover is sold locally and in various other shops and supermarkets across the country.

    But the journey to the top was not paved with green grass and a lot of cheese; Baraka had humble beginnings, growing up from a children’s home that was started in the 1970s. In 1987, Phyllis Keino, the founder of the home, managed to buy the 500-acre piece of land on which the farm now sits, with the help of good friends, the late David and Delia Craig of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in Isiolo.

    Her idea was to grow the farm into the venture it is now; providing food for the children at Lewa Children’s Home, and the surplus being sold to generate additional revenue. But as straight-forward as the plan looked on paper, getting it to take off was a another challenge because Phyllis could not raise the funds needed to shape Baraka into a yielding farm,  in addition to taking care of the more than 60 children.

     Luckily, in 1988, Tom Glue, a volunteer signed to the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), joined the farm and helped set up the initial structures on the farm, among them a farmhouse and temporary stores. He also started a dairy herd and bought a few of the essential farm machinery. But just as the farm was beginning to take shape, in 1991, Glue’s contract term ended and he left. By 1992 the farm was in such desperate shape that Phyllis considered selling it-but this was not to be.

    One year later, in 1993, Mr. Creemers arrived on the farm, also as a VSO volunteer, and although he initially had to contend with a number of challenges, including a collapsed borehole, by 1999 things had begun to look up. In the initial restructuring, Mr. Creemers purchased more second-hand machinery, which he maintains were affordable and helped improve efficiency on the farm.

    Creemers and his team started harvesting rainwater in reservoirs which helped to secure water for the dry season on the one hand and drain water-logged land on the other hand. The ultimate goal was to improve milk production and crop yields as well as reforestate the land- 5000 trees have also been planted on the farm every year since 1995.

    Today, Baraka, which has 20 regular employees, produces over 1000 litres of milk per day and two tonnes of top-grade cheese and other dairy products per month.

    “The difference with other dairy products in the market is that Baraka Farmhouse Cheese and Yoghurt are made from the high quality milk, with a germ count far below 100,000 and a somatic cell count of less than 250,000,” said Creemers. The maximum allowed germ count for cow milk products is 100,000 bacteria per ml of milk, while the maximum allowed somatic cell count is 400,000 cells per ml.

    “The Home and the Kipkeino School have been enjoying a fresh supply of milk, fermented milk (maziwa mala), fresh vegetables and wood fuel-all produced on the farm.”

     The rest is sold at the Baraka Farm Shop under the brand-name Baraka Farmhouse Cheese.

    In addition, for the past 15 years, Baraka Farm has been conducting five dairy skills training sessions every month, receiving thousands of visitors from all over East Africa.The Farm has its own breeding stock and will be parading four Holstein Fresian (HF) bulls during the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre (KAGRC) Bull Show on October 28.    

    Creemers believes that Africa has all the resources needed to feed its population, but it is not doing so because of a number of reasons among them a lack of interest and persistence in farming by the youth. “A lack of expertise and interest in farming among the younger generations has led to underutilization of the region’s natural advantages,” he said.

    But there is hope for coming generations, because the children who grow up at the Lewa Home are taught the importance of farming.

    “As they grow up, they help a lot on the farm. And I know they will reach to a point in their life when they will say ‘hey, well we used to do it like that on the farm where I grew up'.”

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     Baraka Farm is in Uasin Gishu County,along the Webuye-Malaba Road. You can reach them using the phone numbers: +254 700 342 758 and +254 705 884 233 or Emails:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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