Expanding Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers in Kenya


Smallholder farmer standing in field

This post was authored by Dorothy Mwangi, Palladium.

Thirty-one-year-old Job Nyangeso and his wife Mercyline are involved in a business that most young people would frown upon — dairy farming. The average age of a farmer in Kenya is 60; young people rarely want to work in agriculture because they think it’s difficult and not remunerative.

The couple earns about $300 a month from their dairy farm. Prior to this, the couple engaged in subsistence farming and barely made ends meet.

“The opportunities in dairy farming generally are inexhaustible,” says Job. “With a fast-growing population, the demand is becoming exponential for milk as most people choose to drink tea at least once a day.”

In Kisii County, scarcity of land limits farmers from growing their own fodder, forcing them to purchase more expensive feed from a few producers. The lack of adequate feed hampers the development of effective dairy farming in the county.

In 2017, Musoni Microfinance helped Job secure a loan of $700, which he used to purchase his first cow and a fodder cutting machine. By the end of last year, he had repaid the loan and was ready to acquire a new loan of $1,400 to expand his dairy farm.

That was when things turned around for the couple.

Job and Mercyline bought another cow, which they named “Musoni,” and they leased three pieces of land, each measuring 1.5 acres, to plant fodder for their growing dairy.

Within a year, milk production increased by 7 liters per cow, and they now collect 25 liters per day. Job sells his milk at 33 Kenyan shillings (about 32 cents) a liter.

The couple astonished their community by growing grass instead of the traditional maize. “We are saving on costs of buying feeds by growing our own fodder,” notes Job. “I am hoping to sell to my neighbors, too, and boost my income.”

Bovine and Human Happiness

Mercyline relates how they take good care of their cows: “We have been improving the zero-grazing unit for the comfort of the cows. We hear that in some other parts of the world farmers use mattresses for their cows to sleep on and even play some music for the cows during milking to increase milk letdown.” She heartily laughs at the thought of all this.>

“The more comfortable, happier, and better taken care of a cow is, the more productive it is,” says Job, who breeds only Friesian cattle.

“Dairy farming is the best thing I could have done,” says Job. “In no other business can your stock be doubling every year. But with each of my cows delivering a calf every year, I am most contented with what I am doing.”

Over the last eight months, Musoni Microfinance has been working with the USAID Development Credit Authority (DCA) to help farmers access finance to increase milk production and develop fodder. There is now a growing interest in commercial fodder farming as individual farmers, farmer groups, and investors recognize this critical gap. Some 200 smallholder farmers have received loans from Musoni Microfinance to expand their agribusinesses in Kisii County.

Palladium implements the Feed the Future Kenya Investment Mechanism (KIM) Program with the support of USAID Kenya. Among other things, KIM is increasing utilization of the DCA partial guarantee, thus lowering risks for financial institutions and increasing financing activity of DCA partner institutions in agriculture and clean energy.