Twelve delegates from four dairy associations and four national farmers’ unions in Southern Africa converged in Kenya for the annual Regional Dairy meeting which was co-hosted by We Effect and SACAU. The event took place from 22-24 August and provided insights on the development of the Kenyan dairy industry. The delegation, which also comprised representatives of SACAU and We Effect Southern and East Africa offices, visited dairy co-operatives and farmers in Machakos and Meru counties in addition to a one-day meeting where, amongst others, an overview of the Kenyan dairy industry was presented. Delegates heard how government supported the smallholder dairy sector after independence.
There was policy focused on the inclusion of indigenous Kenyans in commercial agriculture, and government, for instance, subsidised breeding until the mid-1980s. They were also informed that artificial insemination was used effectively to accelerate the uptake of dairy by smallholder farmers. It was said that smallholders now dominate the industry at the production level at 1-million, while large-scale farmers number around 200,000.
Although great strides have been made, the smallholder sector is still confronted by some challenges. Feed is mostly sourced from outside the country thus making it very expensive, and grazing is the most common feed source. Feed cost was said to account for 70% of the production cost of a litre of milk. Milk spoilage between the farm and collection points is also an issue. The presentation highlighted that it can even take up to two hours for the milk to reach the collection centre from the farm. Rainfall has been erratic in most parts of the country, with frequent prolonged dry periods and occasional floods. In 2017, for instance, the April rains were absent but came in August. These were confirmed during the field visit.