Milk dairy cooperatives in Kajiado county have shut down operations due to a sharp decline in milk production prompted by the ravaging drought.
The simmering drought in most parts of the vast county has dealt a blow to pastoralists. Dozens of animals have succumbed to drought with the few remaining at homes unable to produce any commercial milk.
The creeping disaster has forced most dairy cooperatives to shut their doors exposing their soft economic underbelly. In the Maasai community, milk belongs to women standing out as the major source of income for an ordinary Maasai woman.
These women have organized themselves into groups through which they bulk raw milk before selling it to processors. The entire county boasts of more than 20 active women dairy cooperatives. Some of the cooperatives have been slowly embracing milk value addition in their mini plants.
Maasai Kajiado Women Cooperative, one of the largest dairy cooperatives with 900 members, located in Ilbisil shut down operations three months ago due to a lack of milk supply.
Jane Saruni the cooperative chairperson, told K24 Digital yesterday that the cooperative experienced a sharp shortage of milk supply from July halting operations completely.
"As the drought got severe by July, our milk supply dropped from 30,000 litres daily to less than 100 litres. It got to a point we could not get 50 litres forcing us to close down," she says.
Saruni further says the closure of most dairy cooperatives has left most women in Kajiado without a source of livelihood and grappling with economic hardships.
"We usually sell our raw milk to the new KCC. By July they had increased the prices from Sh 38 to Sh 40 per litre. With no milk business in Kajiado county, women feel the pinch economically," she added saying annually the cooperatives used to earn 100M collectively.
Most of these cooperatives are optimistic to resume operations after short rains that will perhaps restore milk production.
A spot check In Ilbisil town indicates most women Dairy cooperatives have closed down with no activities in various milk collection centres in the nearby villages. The earlier long farmers' queues for pay on the fifth day of the month are no more.
Alice Ncheke a farmer from Meto Village told Nation that she was forced to sell her dairy cows after they were greatly affected by the drought two months ago.
"Two of my dairy cows that had given birth were greatly affected by the drought. They were unable to suckle their young ones to survive. I sold them at Sh 5,000 each.
She added; "Were it not for the drought, I would have earned a tidy amount in the milk business," narrates Ncheke.
Brookside Dairy and the State-owned New KCC are the largest operators in Kajiado against price volatilities associated with the informal milk traders.
According to Brookside dairy records in 2020, farmers in Kajiado raked in Sh 110 million from raw milk deliveries to the processor, which translated to more than Sh 300,000 guaranteed daily revenue into the county from milk, underscoring the importance of dairy farming as an additional source of farming income for locals.
However, farmers reckon that changing weather patterns is a major challenge to the growth of dairy farming in Kajiado, with erratic weather patterns characterized by long dry spells, which continue to impact milk production due to inadequate conserved forage for animals.