Pokot! Mention that name and what comes to the mind of any informed Kenyan is a hot and dry hell where cattle rustling is the only viable economic activity. Who could ever think that a dairy farming success story could be told of this area? But that is exactly what is happening now.
The beautiful story of the dairy farming success in Pokot began with one visionary farmer Kenneth Lomaipong. Many people must have laughed his idea away when he first floated it. As a matter of fact, it seems like what Lomaipong was looking for was not the much needed solution to the economic woes of the Pokot people. He was looking for a solution to the immediate problem that faced the people – cattle rustling.
He thought that since high grade dairy cows like Friesian are not as hardy as the zebu cows kept by his people, it would be useless for rustlers to steal them since they won’t get far with them. That is simply what motivated Lomaipong to look for Friesian cows and bring them to Pokot.
I believe that this man never imagined his idea would grow to become a dairy farming success story given the discouragement he got from people. But fired up to the change that his community needed, he, and a few other optimists, forged ahead and actually started a cooperative society for dairy farmers called Lenan Dairy Company. That was in 2008.
This must have been an eye opener for Pokot people as they begun to see a light of a new hope. The founders of the cooperative started travelling to various places and agricultural shows in search of ideas that would develop their dairy farming activities. It was during this search that they were directed to East Africa Dairy Development (EADD).
EADD is an organization that is committed to the success of dairy farming in Kenya. It seeks to develop ideas in the dairy industry, help dairy farmers organize themselves in order to make money out of milk and bring them in contact with people and organizations that can fund their activities.
What followed the partnership of Lelan Dairy Company and EADD are dairy training workshops where farmers learned modern dairy farming techniques and business management. I strongly believe that this is what has kept the Kenyan youths from practising successful dairy farming.
Today, there stands in the Lelan area of Pokot a milk cooling plant with a capacity of holding 10,000 litres. There are close to 2000 dairy farmers that deliver milk to this Cooling plant. Brookside Company Lorries packed outside the small plant has become a common phenomenon in the area where you could hardly see a car. As a matter of fact, the area residents have started acquiring cars of their own thanks to their successful venture into the milk business.
Peace has come to the area and the construction of the cooling plant saw them get access to electricity. Financial serves have been availed by the savings and credit branch of Lelan Dairy Company and those who cannot get electricity have installed solar systems in their homes. Cattle rustling will only be told in stories to future generations. Such a Transformation!
This is a dairy farming success story from an area you would list expect it from. It is one story that should help us realize that Kenya a huge untapped potential in the farming industry and especially in the dairy sector. Let’s wake up to the challenge and start making money from milk.