Milk chilling plant changes fortunes of 6800 Rift farmers

A milk chilling plant in Metkei area of Keiyo District built by farmers in the area has not only saved them the agony of milk glut but has increased their source of income while giving them a bargaining power to negotiate for better payment of their milk through co operatives that together form the umbrella Metkei Multi purpose Ltd, the dairy company with around 6800 registered farmers.

The plant is part of a ground  breaking project dubbed East African Dairy development Kenya  which has been implemented in Rift Valley and Central Kenya and aims at expanding milk collection and cooling facilities at identified centers, marketing chilled raw milk to processors and paying farmers promptly, providing farmer training and extension services on dairy farming and lastly, setting up farmers’ service centres where they can obtain AI services, farm inputs, credit services, feed and fodder, information and skills on dairy farming.

The Metkei Multi purpose Ltd is one among many benefits farmers in the area are reaping under the East Africa Dairy Development project EADD, that endeavours to harmomize production and marketing of milk through bringing farmers together to enjoy the economies of scale and increase their bargaining power.

Already farmers in the area have become dairy experts from identifying alternative feeds to give to their cattle in order to not only increase the quantity of the milk they supply but also the quantity in terms of butter content.  Farmers can now also identify milk from cattle suffering from mastitis, an endemic disease in the area that traditionally cost them their milk.

Farmers have also increased milk delivery thanks to intensive training on alternative feeds like growing of fodder shrubs that replaces conventional feeds like Dairy Meal that have been eating up the meager returns they got after selling the milk. “ I have three cows which required about 5 kilos of Dairy meal daily each, which meant that one bag of dairy meal could only go for a week not forgetting the prohibitive cost of each which cost about Ksh 2500. But with the new shrubs I just need to mix them with only one Kilo of conventional feeds and am covered. It has saved me a lot not forgetting improving the quality of my milk,” says Kiprop Kiptoo a farmer in the area.

But it is the milk chilling plant which has changed fortunes for the farmers ensuring they get timely returns for their milk delivery and give them access to other dairy related services like the artificial insemination services at subsidized rates. The Metkei Hall which houses the chilling plant and the offices of Managers and accountants was built partly by farmers in an arrangement where they were supposed to raise 10 percent of the total money required, with financial institutions funding the rest in unsecured loans.

Farmers were therefore supposed to buy shares in the company with Sh 100 as registration and a maximum of 5 shares with one share costing Sh 1,000. However an agreement which has been ongoing since 2008 to allow all the farmers even those who couldn’t afford to buy the shares become shareholders has been the winning formula of the plant.