Dairy chama with a dif­fer­ence

Mes­lopes 30 mem­bers are not only dairy farm­ers but also an­i­mal feeds man­u­fac­tur­ers, with their com­pany sell­ing dairy meal to hun­dreds of other farm­ers,

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SEEDS OF GOLD - BY CARO­LINE WAM­BUI sat­na­tion@ke.na­tion­media.com

TRANS­PARENCY AND AC­COUNT­ABIL­ITY IS KEY FOR A GROUP TO RE­MAIN IN­TACT

In­side

the makeshift struc­ture made of wood and iron sheets in Meru are stacks of bags of dairy meal and other an­i­mal prod­ucts, wait­ing to be trans­ported to var­i­ous agro-deal­ers for sale.

Walk­ing in­side the struc­ture, one gets a feeling that they are in a ma­jor an­i­mal feeds pro­ducer, save for the tem­po­rary ware­house.

How­ever, this struc­ture be­longs to Mes­lopes, a dairy farm­ers’ chama in the agri­cul­tur­ally rich county that is pro­duc­ing an­i­mal feeds for sale.

“We started with only four mem­bers in 2015,” Joseph Mutwiri, the group’s chair and one of the founders re­counts.

“Then we went for farm­ers who were pro­duc­ing at least 50 litres a day and were de­ter­mined to dou­ble their vol­umes.”

Some 30 dairy farm­ers signed up to be mem­bers of Mes­lopes, en­abling the out­fit to take off af­ter it was reg­is­tered with the so­cial ser­vices as a self-help group.

The group de­vel­oped a con­sti­tu­tion that out­lined their ac­tiv­i­ties, stated ob­jec­tives, rules to deal with bank­ing, ac­count­ing and au­dit­ing, among oth­ers.

The out­fit is headed by an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, helped by the man­age­ment, de­vel­op­ment, wel­fare and mar­ket­ing com­mit­tees, which each mem­ber be­long­ing to one.

“We agreed to con­trib­ute Sh5,000 a month to act as sav­ings. With the money, we were able get re­sources to fund train­ing for our mem­bers by SNV dairy spe­cial­ists on dif­fer­ent as­pects of farm­ing, feed mak­ing was one of them,” says Mutwiri.

Among the as­pects of dairy farm­ing they were trained on were fod­der grow­ing and preser­va­tion and how mem­bers can pre­serve their own se­men to en­sure qual­ity breeds.

Armed with the knowl­edge, the group’s next step was then to tackle chal­lenges they had one by one, which in­cluded poor qual­ity breeds, low qual­ity feeds and mar­ket­ing is­sues.

The fruits of their train­ing started to man­i­fest as mem­bers’ to­tal milk pro­duc­tion rose from about 1,000 litres a day to 2,000 litres.

They sell their milk mainly to Meru Union, a dairy pro­ces­sor, and to Mo­ran Ltd in Nanyuki at be­tween Sh40 and Sh43.

To start feeds pro­duc­tion, the group con­tracted two spe­cial­ists trained in an­i­mal feed mak­ing and milling to work with them on com­mer­cial­is­ing the busi­ness.

But be­fore that, they pur­chased sev­eral equipment in­clud­ing a weigh­ing ma­chine, a power Work­ers put raw materials to make an­i­mals feeds in a ma­chine at Mes­lopes fac­tory in Meru.

LEAD­ERS SHOULD ALSO BE TRAINED ON THE IS­SUES OF CON­FLICT MAN­AGE­MENT AS COM­PLAINTS WILL ARISE,”

mill – for crush­ing, and a mix­ture ma­chine and got a li­cense from the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“Af­ter reg­is­tra­tion we took sam­ples of our prod­ucts to the Kenya Bureau of Stan­dards for anal­y­sis. Among the things they were check­ing be­fore we got cer­ti­fi­ca­tion were that the feeds should be free of con­tam­i­nants and have the right pro­tein level,” says Zip­po­rah Ari­ithi, a mem­ber of Mes­lopes. They started pro­cess­ing the feeds in Fe­bru­ary 2016, af­ter setting up the pro­cess­ing unit near the Kenya Methodist Uni­ver­sity, Meru, plough­ing into the busi­ness Sh5 mil­lion in to­tal to top up on their Sh500,000 con­tri­bu­tion.

They source their raws ma­te­rial both in and out of the coun­try.

“We source some materials like om­ena lo­cally from the lake re­gion while oth­ers like maize bran, maize germ, cot­ton seed cake and sun­flower seed cake are im­ported from Uganda and Tan­za­nia,” says Ari­ithi.

They cur­rently pro­duce three to four tonnes of dairy feeds in a day. A 10kg bag of dairy meal goes for Sh350, 20kg Sh700, and 70kg Sh2400.

The group which has two per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees and three ca­su­als sells the pro­duce to mem­bers at a sub­sidised rate of­fer­ing them eas­ier ac­cess to feeds.

“We offer the feeds to our an­i­mals, so other farm­ers can­not com­plain of low qual­ity since we also use the same as mem­bers and our pro­duc­tion is high,” says Mutwiri.

Their chal­lenges in­clude poor qual­ity materials for mak­ing an­i­mal feeds, where some sup­pli­ers can some­times de­liver prod­ucts at­tacked by afla­toxin, which is toxic to an­i­mals.

Gla­dys Mir­iti, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Grass­roots De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Foun­da­tion–kenya, says for chamas to sur­vive, mem­bers should have train­ing on is­sues of lead­er­ship, gover­nance (which is quite crit­i­cal), record­keep­ing and group dy­namism.

“Ap­pointed lead­ers should also be com­mit­ted to the focus and vi­sion of the group. The top leader should be one who shares mem­bers’ val­ues.”

Trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity is also key for the group to re­main in­tact.

“The lead­ers should also be trained on the is­sues of con­flict man­age­ment as com­plaints will al­ways arise in a group and how lead­ers han­dle them is what mat­ters,” she says, adding should be knowl­edge­able so that they have ca­pac­ity to think broadly on how the group can progress.

They in­clude how a group can get good mar­ket, credit, cer­ti­fied seeds or materials for mak­ing feeds and they should also up­date mem­bers on what is hap­pen­ing

The group hopes that in the next few years, they would be sell­ing their dairy meal across the coun­try, com­pet­ing with the big boys.

CARO­LINE WAM­BUI | NA­TION

David Ig­weta and his wife on their farm in Meru County. The two are mem­bers of Mes­lopes Farm­ers Group which pro­cesses an­i­mal feeds that mem­bers like the Ig­we­tas buy at sub­sidised rates boost­ing their agribusi­nesses.

CARO­LINE WAM­BUI | NA­TION

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