Makutano located on Eldoret-Lodwar road is a sprawling town in West Pokot County. It is here that we meet Selina Chepkoech who usually travels several kilometres to take her milk to the nearest cooling plant.
Just like many dairy farmers in the region, Selina is forced to use donkeys to ferry the produce and most of it ends up going bad along the way due to poor roads.
“I lose 1,200 litres of milk because of poor roads. We have been forced to hire tractors to transport our milk to the cooling plant but the tractors are not of much help because of the poor state of the roads,” says the farmer.
It is this challenge that turned 29-year-old, Percy Lemtukei into an innovator. On seeing the problems people of West Pokot were facing, Lemtukei came up with a milk cooler.
The informatics graduate from Rongo University together with Emmastella Wangui, a communication and media studies graduate, developed a cooler and attached as a system which they hope will help cut losses.
He said most farmers in the county were making losses due to milk going bad and other challenges related to record keeping in various milk buying cooperative societies.
“These losses are a blow to farmers and there was a need for cooling on transit as huge segment of the dairy farmers can hardly afford standard milk cans,” said Lemtukei.
He says he studied this problem and came up with a technology that will ease their burden.
“There is a problem in maintaining milk quality especially in transit. Again, accountability is key in increasing farmers’ confidence. Strategic planning was another need at both the farmer and milk buying cooperative society level,” he says.
Our invention uses aluminium tanks act as cooling system which is connected to a solar panel. It also has a milk PH test kit, an automatic weighing scale and a customised dairy co-operative management system (application) called Maziwa Plus.
The machine allows farmer to keep milk for maximum of three days without going bad and he has patented the innovation.
Maziwa Plus links the machine and the cooperative society. The app automatically collects milk quality and quantity data and relays it to the cooperative’s payroll after computing the monthly total collections and relays the same information to the farmer through SMS.
MORE FARMERS NEED TO ADOPT THE TECHNOLOGY
The message will contain farmers collection for that day, sum total collection for that month and equivalent pay converted using the current rate and an advance or loan that the farmer qualifies for. In case of milk spoilage, the app will automatically inform the farmer the reason for milk rejection.
He says the programming skills which he acquired at the university assisted him to develop the technology last year.
“We make all the components of the system, from fabrications to the circuit board, the softwares and the cooling systems,” says Lemtukei.
He says that from the farm, the milk goes through a series of quality and quantity checks and the data is automatically fed into the Maziwa Plus app which then processes and routes the data to a cooling plant’s database and an electronic receipt send to the farmers’ mobile phone.
“Milk that fails the test is auto-rejected and the farmer notified via SMS. Best quality milk is then emptied to the cooling tank which maintains a temperature of four degrees Celsius on transit to the main cooling plant. This milk carriers are designed for both motorcycles and donkey carts, “he says.
The two friends founded Savanna Circuit, an innovation and technology company which interested companies can either invest, partner or buy their products.
Wangui has a background in communication development with entrepreneurial and management skills and is currently a beneficiary of women in technology incubation program in Strathmore University where Maziwa Plus review and development is taking place.
“As at now, Milk-Plus is on a two months pilot test and so far it has passed all requirements. We discovered that lots of milk spoilage occurs where farmers take longer time to deliver it to collection points,” says Lemtukei.
Pokot South agricultural officer Fredrick Munoko says that the technology is good as it will help to preserve milk.
“With this technology, dairy farmers will not lose their milk. More farmers need to adopt it,” he says.