How Sacco is changing fortunes of dairy farmers

The fortunes of dairy farmers in West Pokot are steadily improving thanks to a Sacco that has been helping them to store and market their milk.

Tuesday February 23 2016

Brookside Dairy workers pack milk into boxes. Milk farmers who sell milk to Brookside Dairy have asked the firm not to slash prices. PHOTO / FILE / NATION MEDIA GROUP

Brookside Dairy workers pack milk into boxes. The fortunes of dairy farmers in West Pokot are steadily improving thanks to a Sacco that has been helping them to store and market their milk. PHOTO / FILE / NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WYCLIFFE KIPSANG
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The fortunes of dairy farmers in West Pokot are steadily improving thanks to a Sacco that has been helping them to store and market their milk.

Residents of the sub county of Lelan are now embracing dairy farming in droves as they seek to reap big from the promising sector. At the heart of this transformation is Muruny Farmers’ Cooperative Society cooling plant which has ensured that no milk go to waste.

The society was started in 1974, and it was initially meant for farmers who owned Merino sheep. The members sold the animals and wool through the Sacco. However as the society grew, the managers realized that dairy farming held huge potential and encouraged members to market their milk through the scheme.

This turned out to be a game-changer. The Sacco currently produces 10,000 litres of milk daily, generating more than Sh1 million a month which is distributed to the farmers according to the litres delivered to the society. In January alone, the farmers delivered 228,000 kilos of milk to the society.

The Sacco has been making steady progress and now owns key assets such as a cooling plant which was bought at Sh1.9 million in 2005. It also took a bank loan and set up a structure to house the facility at a cost of Sh2.3 million.

NO ELECTRICITY

Because the area still does not have electricity, the company bought a generator and other requisite accessories at a cost of 1.6 million.

The society’s manager Jackson Meriakol said the idea of milk production came up in 2008 after farmers realised that the area is favourable for dairy farming.

“Initially, farmers used to individually supply their milk to Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) but following its collapse, we decided to come together and collect our milk, preserve in the cooler and market collectively and keep at bay unscrupulous middlemen,” Mr Meriakol told Smart Company adding that the cooler has prevented milk from getting spoiled due to poor handling.

The milk is sold to Brookside Dairy which buys a litre at Sh38 with Sh33 going to the farmers after deduction of administrative costs and other expenses.
The society helps Merino farmers to improve the quality of their breeds and assist them to get market for them. The sheep go for between Sh20,000 and Sh25,000. The group recently sold more than 100 sheep to a church in Rwanda.

Mr Meriakol said one of the challenges that farmers face is drought which leads to pastures dwindling. With lack of sufficient feeds, milk production drops.

Ms Margaret Longetiwa is one the farmers whose life has been transformed by the enterprise. The mother of six earned Sh246,000 last year from milk supplied to the society.

“We are now empowered thanks to the society and we can comfortably cater for our family’s needs including school fees for our children,” she said.

The enterprise has also helped end conflicts between Pokot and Marakwet communities who in the past used to engage in bloody cattle raids. The two communities jointly deliver their milk to the society, a big boost to peace initiatives in the region.

The society has already set up Muruny Rural Sacco where members can borrow loans which has enabled them invest in other activities including buying more cows and paying school fees for their children.