“Come on,” Everlyne Amakobe says while persuading ‘Rita’ over. Rita strolls into the milking section of the cow shed, and Everlyne leans down and rubs Rita’s forehead and ears. “Good girl,” she murmurs softly, with an accent that blends the animal with her master’s voice. Evelyn wakes up every morning at 5:30 AM to milk her two cows ‘Rita’ and ‘Rembo’ who calved recently in Ebuchwuetsi village, Bungoma County.
While entering the shed to start filming ‘Rita’ and ‘Rembo’ seemed uneasy, “they don’t like strangers,” she chuckles. She tells me it’s because of veterinary officers who jab them during checkups. “Today I’m lucky, 7 liters is an improvement, “Everlyne tells me while she pours the milk into plastic jerrycans ready for transporting to Khwisero Dairy Cooperative 3 kilometers away.
As the sun sets, Everlyne get busy in their small farm garden nestled with few banana trees plants, skuma wiki and napier grass, “I had everything, “she says, “I lived a happy life until one night when robbers attached me. “I have scars from the past that’s why we relocated here. It’s much safer and we are happy,” she added.
Learning how to budget
Recent training on financial literacy conducted by CARE Kenya for Khwisero Dairy Cooperative helped increase her milk production, “budgeting is everything,” Everlyne acknowledges, “I learnt to prioritize and avoid impulse buying. I have budgeted for fodder, salt lick and crude protein,” she added.
In order to save money, Everlyne decided to buy crude protein and processed it for dairy meal as per trainings from GIZ instead of buying ready made from the shelve. She also noted that there is slight increase in milk produced daily, “milk production increased fairly after I increased the amount of cow feeds intake and bought pesticides to control ticks and flies,” she said. “I used to buy 5 kg of flour for the 2 cows but later increased to 50 Kgs.” Milk production has increased from 3 liters to an average of 7 liters daily.
“I also learnt that loans should be acquired with a purpose and I should also be able to repay to avoid defaulting. It was critical for me to manage home expenditures so as save more for the dairy cows. For instance, I used to buy 20 kilograms of maize but I have reduced to 5 kilograms,” she said.
She also learnt the importance of saving money for artificial insemination (AI) over natural mating. “I don’t administer AI to both cows at once, it’s done separately so as to have continuous milk production. I have plenty of milk for use and the surplus delivered to the dairy cooperative,” she said. Everlyne plans to expand and improve the cow unit and increase the number of cows for milk production. She also plans to diversify into poultry rearing to supplement food and income.
Changing mindsets to increase production
Jafred Masakhwe is the Manager, Kwhisero dairy farmer’s cooperative society. He said that the financial literacy training was important for the cooperative members, “in dairy business farmer must plan. It’s important for individual dairy farmers to come up with budgets and prioritize needs,” he said.
Jafred acknowledged that budgeting is core to farmers, even the savings aspect is critical so as to help members determine financial institutions with low interest rates and high risk. “The training changed farmer’s mindset from the belief that they needed large capital to do dairy farming. Budgeting is important so as to buy what’s required for the dairy animal then improve on milk production,” he added. At the onset of COVID-19 in Kenya members delivered less than 100 liters per day but currently this has improved to 300 liters per day indicating that farmer production capacity is increased.
“I have observed that most of our dairy farmers are prioritizing investments. Through financial literacy training, the cooperative will identify key areas to invest in so as to realize full potential because we have invested heavily on production machines yet we are operating below capacity,” he said. The cooperative plans to start value adding 100 liters of milk processed into yoghurt and mala (sour milk) to increase sales. “This can only work if we improve on marketing, financial management and starting a mentorship program targeting lead dairy farmers who can mentor others,” he added.
I will budget better
Alhaj Abdi Swaleh is a member of Matete Dairy Cooperative in Kakamega County. He has just finished three days training on financial literacy
“I lacked necessary skills for managing my finances and dairy farming. Today I learnt to prioritize and avoid buying without plan so as to manage my budget. I didn’t have any idea that we needed to budget for these dairy animals.”