Dairy farming bails farmers out of extreme poverty

Denise Atogo attending to one of his dairy  cows. He is a member of Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group which has helped him improve his farm production. [Photo: Nyakwar Odawo]
Denise Atogo attending to one of his dairy cows. He is a member of Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group which has helped him improve his farm production. [Photo: Nyakwar Odawo]

At only 43 years, Denise Atogo, an electrician and resident of Ruambwa Sub-location, Bunyala Sub-County, Busia County has turned his back away from poverty, thanks to a dairy and horticultural farming project that has transformed his life and that of his family.

A member of Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group with a membership of 20 people, things are getting better. The group was formed in 2009 and the members’ livelihood was previously a case of from the hand to the mouth without any hope of seeing better change. This was before they joined the group and were based in a situation where they literally started at poverty in the face.

The group members now have every reason to smile as they are now enjoying the fruits of hard work after pumping their scarce resources into active horticultural and dairy farming.

Objective

“Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group which comprises 20 members was formed in 2009 with an aim of transforming the livelihood of the members through cultivation of various horticultural crops,” explains Atogo, who is the group’s chair person.

He says: “Despite financial constraints that had seen the group members lagging behind hence failing to achieve their goal, we kept on struggling with the hope that someday our dream will come true as we believed that every cloud has its silver lining.”

The group members’ dream came true when a non-governmental organization Send-A-Cow Kenya, formerly known as Heifer Project International (HPI) came at the grassroots level seeking to work with and support community based organizations by financing their income generating activities.

The organization’s main objective was to work closely with registered community based organizations purposely to improve on their standards of living. In order to empower members of Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group to transform their livelihood, the NGO provided each of the group’s members with two dairy cows for a start.

Apart from providing them with dairy cows, the organisation took the initiative to take the group for a training course on effective livestock management so that they would be able to manage their dairy cows well for better yield.

The group members’ major challenge had been acute financial constraints that had impacted negatively on their income generating activities thereby preventing them from improving on the status of livelihood.

However, as chairman of the group, Atogo is proud to say that the Send-A-Cow project has transformed their lives a lot since the non-governmental organization came on the ground and identified them.

Training

“The training my fellow group members and I underwent in Kakamega has empowered me so much so that I am now able to take proper care of my dairy cows so as to increase milk production and reap good cash out of the dairy and horticultural project,” explains Atogo. He notes: “I am also proud to say that my two dairy cows produce between22 to 23 litres of milk per day.”

He notes: “During peak period, six months after delivery I get between 20 and 22 litres of milk per day, but between seven months and one year the milk production reduces to ten litres a day which I sell at KSh70 per litre.”

Vision

Atogo notes: “My vision is to one day transform my farm into the only model farmers’ field school in Bunyala Sub-County where farmers from within and other areas can come to learn more about modern farming methods for better agricultural yield.”

He reiterates: “Apart from initiating a farmers’ field school, I am also planning to acquire a better breed that can produce between 60 and 70 litres of quality milk per day so as to enable me set up a milk depot once funds are available.”

Apart from dairy cows, Atogo also grows assorted vegetables which include sukuma wiki (kale), tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, beans as well as dhania (coriander) which he supplies to various learning institutions in the sub-county.

According to Atogo, the major challenge that they face as a group is that the high cost of Artificial Insemination (AI) services that has forced them to rely on local breeds that do not produce enough milk.

“We are appealing to the Busia County Government to consider providing us with Artificial Insemination services at an affordable rate so that we can have more cows capable of producing quality milk and increase our earnings tenfold,” pleads Atogo.

Agribusiness is profitable and can go a long way in addressing the high unemployment rate especially among the youths, but lack of transparency and accountability has hampered the youths from transforming their livelihood as majority of them had failed to invest wisely with loan facilities they had received under the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

Atogo says: “In order for one to succeed and reap good fruit, there is need for transparency and accountability coupled by hard work and being the customer of your own business.”

However, Atogo says, they are grateful to Send-A-Cow Kenya for chipping in and providing Ruambwa Dairy Farmers Self-Help Group members with cows that have positively transformed their lives and bailed them out of the pit of extreme poverty.

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