Improving livelihoods in Kenya

Collaborating with partners through a Dairy Hub model, Tetra Pak is collaborating in partnership to help 30,000 Kenyan smallholder farmers and their families increase dairy productivity and income, whilst simultaneously getting more women and young people involved in the dairy value chain.

A billion people rely on the dairy sector to support their livelihoods and to sustain communities in all corners of the world. In Kenya, smallholder farmers are responsible for nearly 80 percent of all milk produced but they have traditionally been challenged by lack of infrastructure and experience, which leads to a lack of access to safe and nutritious food. To help improve this and meet the growing demand for milk and dairy products in Kenya, the Kenya Market-Led Dairy Value Chain Supply project (KEMDAP) was created, a four-year project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) with implementation handled by Heifer International.

Tetra Pak joined the KEMDAP project along with Tetra Laval Food for Development and their Dairy Hub model and together with SIDA and Heifer International work to link 30,000 smallholder farmers to a dedicated dairy processor – in this case New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (NKCC). This helps enable stable access to market for the farmers and safe distribution of UHT (ultra-high temperature) treated milk throughout Kenya, which is key when it comes to ensuring food security and safety in the country as the milk has an increased shelf life, meaning it can reach remote areas without a cold chain.

Farmers with cows, Dairy hub in Kenya

Working with reference farms to inspire whole communities

“In the Tetra Laval Food for Development team we work directly with Extension Officers, a team of locals who are focused on providing extension services and knowledge to the smallholder farming community. We provide the Extension Officers with technology and hands-on training and they then cascade this knowledge. In the KEMDAP project we work with a reference farm methodology, working closely with carefully selected farmers because they are people who are open to change and have the potential to inspire those around them. We implement best practices and improvements on the selected reference farms, and these farms are then used to inspire the surrounding farming communities through farm discussion groups and demonstration days,” explains Lynda McDonald, Project Manager, Dairy Development, Tetra Laval Food for Development.

It was not an easy journey for the farmers who faced many challenges along the way. But strong support from the Extension Officers helped them solve issues such as lack of clean fresh water, poor record keeping and lack of proper management, resulting in increased production and profitability.

The reference farmer model is popular both among the farmers and with the Extension Officers. As Extension Officer Edwin Taurus puts it, “Going to the farmer, listening and understanding, being there to encourage – it increases the bond between us and gives farmers the courage to change.” His colleague Eliud Lagat agrees: “It’s practical and realistic in terms of production, and I love it because the farmers are really happy.”

Nelson Sang, a reference farmer from Nandi County feels the same way: “The project has motivated me, I have learned a lot and I have found the courage to show my neighbors and my community at large how to improve dairy farming. It has really had a lasting impact. People are beginning to understand that just one dairy cow can feed a family and provide a good income,” he says.

The success of the reference farm project now has county governments looking at how to implement the programme in their extension services, farmer education that encompasses a wide range of communication and learning activities, including agriculture, health and business studies.

Creating a positive change 

The positive ripple effects in the wider community are exactly what the project was hoping to achieve. Now that farmers have access to a stable market, providing reliable income, it also increases national food safety because the incoming milk is processed, pasteurized and packaged, rather than being sold raw on the street.

“The project benefits the whole community. It helps improve livelihoods, and we know that increased incomes often go towards better food, schooling – especially for girls – and proper housing. The income generated from the project starts a positive feedback loop that can be felt throughout these rural communities,” says Lynda.

Key to the Dairy Hub model’s success is the human connection. Many smallholder farmers are wary of change so the Extension Officers have their work cut out when it comes to encouraging farmers to implement new ways of working.

“The reference farms project has enhanced the skills, knowledge and competencies of the extension officers involved. I have noticed growth of their confidence and passion for farm advisory work.  The farmers who were involved in the project are very happy as they have seen increase in production, profitability and incomes and are also more confident to let other farmers learn from them.  I can say that the impact of reference farms project will keep on growing as more and more extension officers and farmers will keep on learning from it”, says Project Manager at Heifer, Agnes Kavatha.

Farmer feeding cows, Dairy hub in Kenya

Empowering women and improving living standards

Madgeline Buigut is one of the 9 reference farmers. She has been working with dairy farming for more than a decade, but without seeing much profit. That has now changed and her farm has grown significantly. Madgeline is also happy that more women are getting a chance to run farms and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

“Traditionally, in the Kalenjin community, only goats and chicken belonged to women while cows were reserved for men. But now we are actively involved in managing cows. We are now empowered and our living standards have improved,” says Madgeline. 

“We consider farmers to be poor if they don’t have a cow so, actually, to improve the production of dairy cows is a symbol of prosperity and growth. We want to give them content that will improve their lives,” says Jeremiah Rotich, Extension Officer and colleague of Edwin and Eliud.

Madgeline and other reference farmers hold monthly farm discussion groups where they invite other surrounding farmers in the community and guide them on how to run a dairy enterprise, sharing their successful experiences, and their challenges – and more and more women attending are embracing dairy farming.

“We are encouraging women and young people to engage in farming because there is money in it. Dairy is healthy. You get peace of mind. Farming is not a dirty job,” Madgeline says.

During the 4 year KEMDAP project (2017-2021) the project interventions increased milk production by 65% from the baseline of 5.43 litres per cow per day to 8.95 litres per cow/day overall.  At regional level, milk production in the Upper Eastern region increased from 5.9 litres per cow per day to 10.9 litres per cow per day, representing an 84.7% increase.  In the North Rift region, production increased by 61%, from 4.47 litres per cow per day to 7.19 litres cow per day. 

The dairy hub model

In 2017, Tetra Laval Food for Development and Tetra Pak partnered with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (NKCC) and Heifer International in Kenya on a Dairy Hub model supporting 30,000 farmers.

The six key objectives of the Dairy Hub model:

  • Increase production at cow level
  • Increase profitability at farm level
  • Improve the quality of milk
  • Increase milk collection at collection centre level
  • Increase engagement of women and youth throughout the value chain
  • Increase technological and environmental development
The reference farm project

In the first phase of the reference farm project, where 9 reference farms were included, farmers were trained individually by an extension officer and evaluated. In the second phase reference farms held farm discussion groups and group trainings where they shared successful best practice knowledge and experiences. 

The project resulted in a 52% increase of total milk production and a 65% increase in milk production per cow. With the average number of cows having stayed the same, the increase in numbers can be attributed to improved practices and management. Average farm income for the reference farms increased 96% in the 12-month project. These results show that with dedicated focus and resources, results can be achieved faster and impacts can be greater.

“We are proud of how the strong collaboration with our partners has contributed to the great results for the smallholder farmers involved in the KEMDAP project. The productivity improvements made on the farms will also generate long term socio-economic benefits not only for the smallholder farmers and their families, but also for the communities and society at large. It is also great to see women and youth being involved in this project as the future of the dairy sector depends on the younger generations finding a sustainable future in dairy farming.” says Jonathan Kinisu, Managing Director Tetra Pak East Africa.