Even as dairy farmers across the country decry the decreased milk prices, Murang'a farmers are smiling all the way to the banks thanks to the milk policy and initiatives by the devolved unit which stabilized milk prices at Sh35.
The devolved unit led by Governor Mwangi Wa Iria united all the dairy farmers in 50 dairy societies and formed an umbrella cooperative before purchasing 50 milk coolers for each society. It also introduced a milk collecting system to ensure that the product is transported to umbrella Cooperative creamery based at Maragua which has now started processing the milk.
According to the governor, the milk project was his main agenda when he sought votes in 2013 and had promised to introduce a policy framework that would protect the farmers from unscrupulous brokers who had taken advantage of the dairy sector to milk money from the dairy farmers.
He said his administration bought 35 coolers for each ward, a move that attracted more farmers to join the sector forcing the county government to add 15 more coolers to the dairy societies.
"My administration invested in Sh500 million to buy and install the 50 milk coolers to the already formed cooperatives to establish a working supply chain to the milk sector, we then assisted the farmers transport their product to the respective companies to reduce the cost of production since we had not constructed a processing plant but we made it clear to the companies that our milk would be bought at a steady price of Sh35," the governor said.
After consolidating the farmers into cooperatives and purchasing the milk coolers, the devolved unit partnered with research agency Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) to buy high grade napier grass and sweet potato vines for the farmers in a bid to increase the supply of milk and to sustain fodder for dairy cows.
"We were ridiculed when we did these things, but with time farmers who understood our concept started feeling the effects and about 100, 000 farmers opened accounts and started receiving better returns," he said.
After ensuring a steady production of milk, the devolved unit purchased a factory for the farmers so that they process their milk in aim for value addition and attracting better returns.
Mr Iria says the county government has invested Sh2 billion for the dairy sector from coolers, fodder and the factory which is now processing 60000 litres of milk daily and has plans to process other milk products such as cheese, yoghurt and creams.
The creamery has created permanent jobs for 25 people and additional number of 40 locals have been employed as casual labourers.
"One can't just wake up and decide to buy the factory it's supposed to be the end game when you have stabilized all the mentioned sectors. The factory has been progressive since 2013 but the farmers started receiving the returns then," he added.
ANIMAL FEEDS PLANT
The devolved unit is now constructing an animal feeds plant just opposite the Murang'a County Creameries in bid to reduce the cost of production and improve fodder supply to the dairy farmers.
The plant which is being constructed at a tune of Sh40 million will be non-profit making and will complement the milk plant to ensure that dairy farmers access quality feed at an affordable cost.
ONE HOME ONE COW
Next year, the devolved unit is planning to introduce a one-home-one-cow program which will ensure that each family in Murang'a gets a cow on loan which will be repaid at Sh20 per day to ensure that all county electorates reap big from the sector.
The County boss said as other counties decry milk prices, they are contemplating increasing the prices thanks to their plan to process more milk products.