In 2017, students at Bukura Agricultural College in western Kenya proposed a business idea to their school.
Before then, final-year students studying for Diploma in Animal Production had carried out a survey revealing that milk consumed in Western Kenya was brought in all the way from Rift Valley, which lies north of Nairobi and sometimes imported from Uganda.
"This area has the potential for dairy farming, but few farmers had embraced the venture. To us, it was a business opportunity. The institution adopted the recommendations by the students and started a dairy farm," said Davis Kamau, who today is plant manager at a thriving dairy at the college.
In response to the initial student proposal, the college bought two dairy cows and soon produced 50 litres of milk daily. The project then got a shot in the arm when the students wrote a funding proposal to the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) to establish a modern dairy farm.
The agency helped the college construct a dairy plant with a Sh25 million ($182,750) grant, providing the college with the capacity to produce 2,000 litres daily.
"The dairy was established with twin objectives of commercial milk production after value-addition and as a training unit for college students undertaking a course in animal production," said Kamau.
The college purchased 20 dairy cows but quickly found that more cows were needed to meet the demand for milk from the local residents who had started coming to the institution to buy milk.
"To meet the forces of demand and supply, we again bought an additional 25 cows that saw us increase the processing capacity to 800 litres per day," said Kamau.
"We also contracted five dairy farmers, trained them on better farming practices, and we get 200 litres of milk daily from them. Our current processing capacity is now 1,000 litres per day," Kamau added.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) have since accredited their operations. The college has started producing branded yoghurt, fermented milk and pasteurised milk to increase profits.
It has a ready market in surrounding schools and colleges, leading supermarkets and local shops in Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga and Kisumu counties.
Kamau said 500ml of yoghurt goes at Sh80 ($0.69), and fermented milk sells for Sh130 ($1) per litre.
"On a good month, we make profits of between 1 million shillings ($7,310) to 1.5 million shillings ($10,965). When milk processing is in full capacity, we expect to get triple the revenue from what we currently get every month," said Kamau.
"We want to buy more dairy cows to increase our milk processing capacity. Already, plans are at an advanced stage to install ATM milk kiosks in Kakamega and Bungoma to expand our market reach," he added.
The college also wants to start producing cream, ghee and biscuits.
According to Patrick Chogo, the commercial farm manager, they want to maximise profits by fully formulating their dairy feeds. Currently, they produce 70% of the feeds at the college farm.
Chogo said that they had planted Napiergrass, hay, desmodium, yellow maise and sorghum, which, after harvesting, is dried, crushed into fine particles and given to the animals as feed.
"We take around 35 kilograms of dry and crushed maise stalks and Napiergrass, 12 kilograms of wheat bran, 8 kilos of maise jam, 35 kilograms of hay, 8 kilos of malt residue, a kilo of salt, four litres of molasses and then mix it with 60 litres of water which we formulate and feed the animals daily," said Chogo.
Geoffrey Gichuki, the assistant farm manager, lamented high feed costs, saying it eats more into the profits than they had expected. However, he had confidence in elaborate plans developed by the college to provide feed for the next two years.
Acting Principal Paul Kuria said the income-generating unit had provided invaluable cash flow to the college, allowing it to stay afloat when it faced financial constraints. He is now determined to make the project more viable by reaching a broader market. He also wants to ensure the project gives local farmers and residents job opportunities.
"Through our dairy project, the institute has trained over 1000 farmers who are also into dairy farming. We will contract them to produce enough milk to meet our expansion targets of processing 5,000 litres of milk in two years," said Kuria.
He explained that Internship opportunities for college graduates and other institutions of higher learning would make the project even more beneficial to the broader community.
bird story agency