Food security and nutrition are key challenges in Kenya. According to the World Food Programme, malnutrition levels are at 29 percent for children in rural areas while 20 percent of those living in cities are stunted. According to UNESCO, school enrolment rates still remain a challenge at 75%, although there has been some improvement in recent years.
Meanwhile, Kenya has access to an excellent source of nutrition, ranking 34th in the world in milk production. According to the Kenya Dairy Board, there are an estimated 1.8 million smallholder dairy farmers with a production of 5.2 billion litres of milk per annum. However, 80 percent of total milk production is still being produced by smallholder farmers that lack formal access to market. The dairy sector is also suffering from poor milk quality and low productivity with an average yield per cow of four to five litres/day.
School milk programmes around the world have demonstrated that they can improve school attendance and nutrition, and strengthen the local dairy value chain. Learning from success stories around the world, local county governments worked in collaboration with the Kenya Dairy Board and local dairy processors to initiate school milk programmes in five counties, covering 1,767 schools. The objectives were to tackle malnutrition, increase school enrolment rates and provide farmers with access to market for the milk. Plans were put in place to measure the impact of the school milk programme in order to validate progress.
Another important part of the initiative was to source milk from smallholder farmers. There is active participation from Meru Dairy, NKCC, Gihunguri Dairy and Brookside Dairy, all of which are supplying UHT milk to schools, providing children with a great source of safe nutrition. Tetra Pak and Tetra Laval Food for Development are providing technical assistance and training to these smallholder farmers.
The impact data is showing significant results. For example, schools that have a school milk programme have seen increases in enrolment rates of up to 55 percent in Nairobi County, 25 percent in Mombasa County, 20 percent in Meru County and 14 percent in Embu County compared with schools without a programme.
Other benefits include more motivated and alert children, improved rates of transition from home school to formal school, less sickness on milk days and more active participation in field activities.
“There exists a strong link between the dairy industry and education sector. Besides providing quality nutrition to pupils in schools, milk provides incomes to parents who are then able to pay school fees and meet other educational obligations,” says Anthony Ian Mutugi, Chairman of the Kenya Dairy Board.
Currently, school milk programmes are running in seven of Kenya’s 47 counties. There is a potential to scale-up to more counties and enrol more children in schools, leading to improved education and nutrition for a larger population.
The consumption of milk and dairy products will also increase in the long term and help the local dairy sector grow. The growth of the programme has great potential to promote education and support the development of the entire dairy value chain.