“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 11 reference farmers carefully selected 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 neighbours 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, pasteurised 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.
“We really focus on human behaviour and what drives and impedes change. If we give technical information only, it doesn’t work. We need to understand which people are open to change and which people are hesitant, and understand their “why”. We work a lot with the “What’s in it for me?” concept in order to understand and create change initiatives. We spend a lot of time getting the right people involved so they can take their place as leaders who can inspire and encourage the wider community to change,” says Lynda.
Madgeline Buigut is one of the 11 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.
Since the KEMDAP Project started, milk production across the 30,000 included farmers has increased by 19 percent and a focus on management and profitability has resulted in increased incomes for the farmers involved. The average annual net household income has gone from $201 to $1777.
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:
So far, the project has resulted in a 32% increase of total milk production and a 45% 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.
“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.