BY NATHAN OCHUNGE
Bungoma County boasts of three active cooperative societies namely, Sang’alo, Kikai and Naitiri where farmers sell their milk thus streamlining the recovery of the stunted economy of Bungoma County.
Bungoma is among the 29 counties that are collaborating with the Kenya Dairy Board, UniBrain and Agritrace in a bid to see to it that the dairy sector in the county improves.
Of the three cooperative societies, there is Kitinda Dairy Cooperative society that died a natural death as a result of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds by the top management organs of the society in which farmers’ endured huge losses.
Kitinda Dairy Cooperative society exited the market after the NARC government led by the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki given the fact that it always received the political good will for her survival from the then professor of politics, erstwhile second president of Kenya Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi.
However, Naitiri Dairy Cooperative Society located in Tongaren constituency where Dr David Eseli Simiyu is their lawmaker in parliament has defied the strong winds of politics since its formation in 2007 where by her members can now breathe a sigh of life given the fact that their standards of living has improved significantly.
After a visit to Naitiri Dairy Cooperative Society (NADAFA), we met Timothy Siombe Kakai who is the manager at NADAFA told us that they started in 2007 as a Community Based Organization (CBO), adding that NADAFA commenced her operations with only 30 dairy farmers.
Kakai told the press that dairy farmers came together in a bid to collect milk at a central place and then sell to established milk factories such as the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (NKCC), Brookside, Tuzo, Molo milk only to mention a few, arguing that this would have enabled them to maximize on profits as opposed to selling in smaller quantities.
He revealed that by 2010 the society had expanded significantly and started selling their milk to New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (NKCC) saying that this made them opt to register NADAF as a cooperative society in a bid to fast track accommodation of more dairy farmers to the society.
“We registered NADAFA as a cooperative society in early 2011 but again we ceased selling our milk to New KCC in 2012 after they imposed to us stringent administrative bottlenecks that required us to transport our milk all the way to Kitale town yet we didn’t have trucks fixed with milk coolers they way they have and resorted to selling to retailers” posed Kakai
The NADAFA manager reiterated that they started selling their milk to Brookside milk processing company in 2013 as they offered them a ready market for their surplus milk cushioned with better prices of milk, adding that these enabled them to also increase the amount of money they were paying farmers from Ksh.30 to Ksh 32.
“Apart from selling our milk to Brookside we used to sell to the residents within our locality and private owned milk retailers that manufactures yoghurt and mala such as Misikhu dairies and New Fresh dairies respectively” posed Kakai
The NADAFA manager revealed that sometimes milk prices fluctuates unexpectedly depending on the strength of Kenyan shilling to other currencies, arguing that this forces them to sell their milk to the locals with slightly high prices in a bid to ensure they pay their dairy farmers standardized prices.
“We gave put in place 22 mobile milk collection centers within Tongaren sub-county whereby our farmers don’t necessarily have to travel to this place but once they deliver their milk to these centers, their details are send to us electronically and then we feed the payment to our payment data base to fast track their payments at the end of the month” posed Kakai
In a rejoinder, Naitiri Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society chairperson, George Lusweti told the press that they also get their milk from makutano in Lugari sub-county within Kakamega County, Webuye, Brigadier, Ndalo, Ndivisi and Misikhu respectively.
Lusweti said that NADAFA collects 5,200 litres of milk on daily basis, saying that 4,700 litres of milk is collected in the morning while 400-500 litres of milk is collected in the evening and then later on sold to Brookside.
“During dry seasons we collect 3,800 litres of milk and we are among the societies that pay their farmers well such that we pay them Ksh. 32-Ksh. 34 and we pay our milk farmers at the end of the month through Mpesa, cash at hand and also wiring their money to their respective bank accounts” posed Lusweti
He added that they also give their farmers advance payments in case of emergencies, adding the money is paid to them as per the records they have on how they frequently deliver their milk to NADAF.
Lusweti told the press that they give dairy feeds to farmers in a bid to increase milk production of their dairy animals, saying that they deduct the money at the end of the month from their respective bank balances.
The NADAFA chairperson revealed that the society currently the society has 4,136 dairy farmers as registered members, adding that those are actively in engaged in high production and supply of milk to NADAFA are 2,100 as some dairy animals are either pregnant or old.
“Out of the 4,136 dairy farmers we have 372 have registered as life members and have even bought shares at Ksh. 200 each and others even have a maximum of 30,000-40,000 shares” said Lusweti
Lusweti also said that NADAFA has a staff of 13 employees working at the headquarters, 43 who collects milk from the dairy farmers to mobile milk collection centers and 22 other employees who man the mobile milk collection centers.
However, Lusweti appealed to the County government of Bungoma through the Ministry of Agriculture, livestock and fisheries to help the society expand into a full factory, saying that they wrote a proposal for the expansion of NADAFA to the Ministry in June 2014 but they have not received any response to date.
Lusweti said that it was the responsibility of the County Government of Bungoma to ensure they support dairy farmers such as NADAFA in a bid to fast track economic recovery of the county, adding that they are the only cooperative society in the larger western region that supplies milk to a milk processing factory.
He lamented that the county government has neglected dairy farmers in the county, arguing that the ministry should up their game in a bid to cushion the county from importing milk from neighboring counties.
In a quick rejoinder, Bungoma County chief officer for Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative development Jacob Okisegere Ekirapa, defended his ministry saying that he is not sure whether they forwarded the said proposal to them or not but assured them that they receive the support from the County Government during the 2015/16 fiscal year.
Okisegere added that they have set aside funds in the 2015/16 financial year in a bid to fast track capacity building to dairy farmers, saying that these will enable the ministry to establish a better way of helping them.
“If Naitiri Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society indeed forwarded to us their proposal for expanding their cooperative society into a full milk processing factory, the ministry will factor in their proposal in the 2015/16 financial year” posed Okisegere
The chief officer revealed that they already have officers in the ministry of livestock who are supposed to forward their complaints to the ministry and called upon all other dairy farmers to use the right channels in addressing their grievances.
NADAFA extension officer and a service provider Martin Kaburu with NADAFA asked the county government to support the NADAFA with funds for expansion and urged youths to venture into dairy farming which gives quicker returns than maize farming.
“Youth should invest in the dairy industry as it has better and quicker returns compared to maize farming that keeps you waiting for 10 months,” added Kaburu
Peter Sitati Wanjala (not real name) who is a dairy farmer told the press that since the inception of Naitiri Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, he has been able to educate his to the three children up to the university.
Sitati said that he has three dairy cows of which he gets 20 litres of milk from each one of them, saying that at the end of the month NADAFA gives him over Ksh. 60,000.
“My last born daughter is now an advocate of the high court based in Nairobi, my first born is doing his masters in the United Kingdom and the second born is an accountant educated all of them using my milk that I used to supply to NADAFA” posed Sitati
Sitati told youths who are unemployed to joined the this noble profession of dairy farming instead of looking for white collar jobs which may not be forthcoming, arguing that if they don’t have starting capital and have interest in dairy farming, he was ready to give them some animals to start up with.