Dairy goat farming is emerging as a high-return option for Kenyan small-scale farmers, although it remains hobbled in some regions by marketing and distribution challenges, even as the sector soars in other nearby regions.
In Meru region, farmers are being turned back with their goats’ milk from the local milk plant, due to its lack of capacity to sell the milk products onwards. But in Nyeri, where strong marketing channels have been developed, the local processing plant is calling for more milk urgently, now even offering record prices.
Daily the Dairy Goats Association of Kenya (DGAK) in Nyeri is receiving 250 litres from farmers, according to the Chairman Warui Mwangi. Yet “it’s insufficient to meet the daily demand of 1000 litres a local processing plant is requiring,” he said
For almost the last four years Meru Goat Breeders Association (MGBA), have been restricted to selling their milk and by-products to their local small scale market due to bar code restrictions requirements by bigger supermarkets and shopping outlets.
That resulted in instances where the association turned away farmers delivering milk and in one instance in 2008 tipped over 600 litres of milk and by-products due to a glut. But two weeks ago they finally managed to get their products bar coded.
With the bar codes in place, the Association’s chairman Gitonga Muthengi is optimistic they will finally crack the market they couldn’t initially, major supermarkets. Currently they are aggressively seeking marketing agents and companies all over the country open to buying their goat milk. “We really want the goat farmers to benefit,” said Muthengi.
With the prospects market for MGBA goat milk looking up, the association has so far received a Sh2.7 million financial boost from Innovation Fund to help them train farmers on handling milk and help MGBA to streamline their milk processing operations.
For small organisations like MGBA the bar code acquisition is one of the last hurdles to cross before their products hit the supermarkets. Along with barcodes, shopping outlets may also require farmers to have an introductory and registration letter. “We might also need to see products certification evidence from Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and products samples before we stock,” says Bernard Kongo of Uchumi Supermarket.
However the initial step before any food processing entity commences operations is registration by government’s registrar of companies. The certification of registration is then presented to (KEBS) who gives a standardization mark permit.
The permit is given after a Quality Assurance Officer from KEBS visits the manufacturing premises and tests the products’ suitability for use. “Its illegal to sell something that’s not certified by us,” said John Nyosore of KEBS Standardization unit.
For a company whose yearly turnover doesn’t exceed Sh200, 000 KEBS charges Sh5800 for the permit inclusive of Value Added Tax (VAT). For turnover between Sh200, 000 to 500,000 they are charged Sh11, 600. The permit fee is subject to annual renewal.
After a manufacturing entity has fulfilled the aforementioned regulations, they can approach a bar coding company with supporting documents. The documents are the company and PIN certificate and list of products to be bar coded.
Around the city there are companies like GS1 Kenya or Technology Partners who provide bar coding technology. For GS1 Africa they charge Sh5500 to register a new member company costs subject to 16 percent VAT.
Then there is an annual subscription that gets charged depending on the company’s annual turnover. Once the fee is paid “the bar codes get activated immediately,” said Dorothy Kwamboka of GS1 Kenya Brand Activities Executive. The bar codes expire yearly after which they are renewed. “Different products are assigned different bar codes for them,” she adds.
Besides industry supervision, KEBS also assigns the prestigious mark the Diamond Mark of Quality. The diamond mark certification is open to interested manufacturers. But companies interested in having their products branded with it, pay KEBS to be performing random checks on their on shelf products.
The checks are done over a random period of time. “We don’t tell when we are testing,” said Nyosore. If in the period the product doesn’t fail the KEBS quality tests. KEBS certifies it a superior product and awards the diamond mark. “If it’s a failure we communicate with the industrialists,” he adds.
The diamond mark is highly respected in East Africa as per Nyosore. And the products with it have more marketability of products within East Africa
The test charges to be awarded the diamond mark are relatively higher and are charged at 0.2 percent of the company’s annual turnover.
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
Drought is changing the face of Kenya’s livestock industry, as farmers turn away from keeping cattle and build up their camel herds as demand moves from beef to camel meat, further driven by its power in relieving the widespread conditions of diabetes and tuberculosis.
The difficulties of raising cattle when rainfall is scarce have seen farmers across the entire country, and not only in the traditional arid areas of North Eastern Kenya, move to camels in the last two years.
The Ministry of Livestock now puts the camel population at more than five million, compared to seven million cattle, with the cattle population having declined 30 per cent, from 10 million, just three years ago.
“The prediction is that camel is the animal to watch in coming years if recent history is anything to go by. The camel population has grown by over 1 million in the last two years, which have equally seen a huge dip in cattle population, thanks in part to drought,” said Daniel Kutu from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Kenyan Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) estimates that camel will surpass beef to become the most common type of meat eaten in the country by 2015.
The uptake is being attributed to the camel’s ability to withstand droughts, through being able to survive without food and water for up to three weeks. The hump of the camel stores fluids, preventing dehydration and allowing it to transport people and goods over long distances. By contrast, cows require daily access to water and pasture.
At the same time, camel farming has become more lucrative, with a camel now worth three times the value of a cow. This has driven the marked uptake of camel beyond the traditional North Eastern part of the country to the rest of the country. The Kenyan government has also launched several initiatives to encourage camel rearing, such as providing loans to camel breeders to expand their herds and developing potential markets.
“More and more people are responding to these incentives with time and the roll out is happening across the country. At the moment, Kenya is among the top five camel breeding nations of the world,” said Daniel.
Typical of the newxomers is the Mwihoti farmers group in Central Kenya’s Nyeri area, which is rearing 200 camels mostly for commercial purposes, and has found a lucrative local market in surrounding hospitals, where the demand for the milk and meat has grown due to its higher nutritional value.
Leading scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) detected a protein similar to insulin in the camel milk in Kenya, and in Germany, some years ago. This is a significant health bonus, with 2010 figures reporting over 6 million diabetics in Kenya, with a condition that is aided by insulin.
Clinical trials carried out by KEMRI in Nairobi have also shown that tuberculosis patients enjoy a quicker recovery rate after consuming camel meat and milk. This discovery is what has birthed the need for meat and milk in the diet for those in hospitals.
“The demand has been astronomical. Not only do we sell it to the hospitals, but the local butcheries have been demanding it and it sells so fast. It has to do with its tenderness and nutritional value. We can’t meet the demand which is why we are clearing more land to accommodate another stock we hope to get by June,” said Justus Rionge the head of Mwihoti farmer group.
The group earns around Sh630 per kg for the camel meat, which is double the price of a kilo of beef at a Nairobi butchers. In a daym they sell over 200kgs of the meat. The leather industry has also been a big customer buying a fresh camel skin for Sh10,000 compared to a cattle one for Sh4,000.
In Isiolo, a women’s group has bought a Land Rover to tour the challenging local terrain collecting camel’s milk from farmers, which it then delivers to the group in Isiolo. The milk is put in a freezer until the following day, and then transported by bus to Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate, where demand ahs been rising fast from the Somali community.
The women sell the camel milk by the litre, for Sh60 in Isiolo and Sh100 in Nairobi, compared to the Sh30 a litre that cow’s milk generally sells for.
The venture has been so lucrative that the members of the group, who have mobilized farmers to sell their milk, themselves earn up to Sh60,000 a month, which has meant a complete change in lifestyles.
In contrast to cattle or goat farming, camel farming requires little attention, supervision or infrastructure, as the animals can go days without water or fodder. Camels can eat a thorny twig without hurting their mouths because the lining in its mouth is so tough that the sharp thorns cannot push through the skin. If food is very scarce, a camel will eat anything--bones, fish, meat and even leather. This scores it highly among the candidates that can survive harsh climatic conditions.
A 2011 study by a South African institute concluded that camel farming could be an option for 20m to 35m people living in semi-arid areas of Africa, who will soon be unable to grow crops because of climate change.
The study predicted that an additional 500,000 sq km to one million sq km in Africa – about the size of Egypt - would have become marginal farmland by 2050. But rethinking agricultural production now, boosting production of the hardier types of livestock - goats, donkeys, camels and some types of cattle – could protect millions from a future loss of income.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
By contrast, the Meru Goat Breeders Association (MGBA), responsible for collecting and processing the milk from over 300 members in Meru, is capable of handling only 50 litres a day. Any more than that and it is forced to pour the milk away, sometimes, as in 2008, tipping away as much as 600 litres of milk and by products that it had been unable to sell into the local market, and lacked the capacity to distribute further afield.
However, much of the difference between the two regions lies in access to urban markets and large-scale buyers based on relationships and administration, rather than location.
Unlike the Nyeri farmers whose milk ends up being sold to a goat milk processing company with the financial ability to distribute the byproducts as far as Nairobi, the MGBA plant is run by goat milk farmers themselves and though it makes byproducts, like yoghurts, its market is restricted to shopping outlets not requiring bar coding.
Four years ago when Farm Africa was facilitating the MGBA project operations, its milk used to be sold in major supermarkets, including Nakumatt, Uchumi and Chandaria. But when Farm Africa’s bar code expired, MGBA was left without one, which meant their milk supply to these supermarkets was halted.
Though their products were nine months ago certified with a diamond mark of quality by Kenya Bureau of Standards, obtaining the bar code has been a Herculean task financially. However, its still work in progress, says the chairman.
For dairy goat farmers, however, the Nyeri membership model has created a successful working model of dairy goat marketing.
In 2007, the Nyeri organisation had 11,000 members. Today it has 16,000. At the same time its milk throughput has more than quadrupled, from 50 to 70 litres daily to now 250 litres. Yet it can no market up to 1000 litres a day.
The resulting ‘shortage’ of goat’s milk has seen offers rising to Sh50 a litre, up from the normal market price of Sh45, to draw extra supply. Per litre, the goat milk price is anyway double that of the cow’s milk, whose average is around Sh20. That means per goat in a day a farmer can make upwards of Sh200, even when selling at Sh40 to Sh45 a litre. “A litre can even rise to Sh100 depending on who is buying” says Alexander Betz consultant to DGAK.
As DGAK seeks to lure more farmers still into goat’s milk, the resurgence is also being driven by the introduction of more productive goats, using pedigree European bucks like Saanen, German Alpine and Toggenburg. These when cross bred with local varieties can increase milk production by up to 6 litres per goat daily.
One buck can cost Sh25,000, while a cross bred can cost Sh10, 000. Yet these can still be beyond the reach of small-scale farmers, with local breed bucks costing from Sh1000 to Sh5000. For this reason, DGAK has been facilitating farmers to be pooled into groups that are then given one cross-bred buck.
In addition to increasing milk production crossbreds adapt well to the local climate. They mature fast and in a year they are ready to mate. On maturity they weigh over 35 kg compared to local breeds that weigh 15kg after three to five months.Some local breeds that can be cross bred are the Galla and Zebu.
Organisations like World Vision also buy in bulk hybrid kids for as little as Sh10, 000 each, according to Alexander Betz.
Goat farming compared to cow farming is also more sustainable on small pieces of land. “One acre of land if well managed can sustain 20 goats” said Warui Mwangi. Also goats eat more plant varieties compared to cows.
Even in Nyeri where the market has been established, collection from farmers is still posing a challenge as the suppliers are sparsely spread. “That makes milk collection hard” said Betz. It even puts off prospective dairy goat farmers as milk collection isn’t guaranteed. But “farmers who keep cows are many” quips Betz.
The nutritional benefits of goat milk is also aiding its takeoff. It’s recommended to HIV sufferers as its high protein molecules are better absorbed than other proteins and strengthens antibodies. Also for mother who opt not to breast feed, the milk is an ample substitute.
Other areas where dairy goat ventures are being tried are more arid areas like Kitui and Mwingi in Eastern province. The government’s Arid Land Resource Management Project (ALRMP) is operating for free over 10 buck stations for local farmers to cross breed.
DGAK, meanwhile, has 7 stations in Kenya. They work with donor agencies to train farmers around Kenya on Dairy Goat husbandry.
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
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