A few kilometres off Nyeri-Nanyuki highway in Karundas area exists a farm which, unlike its surrounding, is all green with a beautiful home in the middle. The driveway has a well-manicured fence on both sides. It is the home of former Mathira Member lof Parliament Matu Wamae.
After quitting politics in 2002, Wamae settled there and while enjoying his sunset years, he started dairy farming. Over the years, the farm has grown and has been converted into a dairy farming school. We arrive as the former MP is addressing trainees from Mawingu Dairy Training Institute.
The school attracts farmers from Meru and even as far as Rift Valley region. Started in January this year, the institute was started to train dairy farmers to take care of their dairy animals to increase milk production as well as quality.
“After taking the leadership of New Kenya Cooperative Cremeries KCC in 2003, I realised that milk production in the country was low because of lack of proper farm management by dairy farmers. “I opened up my farm to farmers in the locality to learn proper dairy farming methods to increase milk production,” he told the People Daily.
“After several months, trained dairy farmers started to reap fruits from the training and that is when I decided to open the institute to help other farmers across the country,” he adds. “The institute was set up at a cost of Sh250 million with the Netherlands government supporting the programme.
It has boarding facilities and with Sh15,000, a farmer can stay here and learn everything that happens in the farm,” he says. According to Wamae, the one-week training is enough for them to learn all the dairy farming basics.
“I cannot keep the farmers away from their farms for so long,” he says adding that the institute will strive to create a culture of farmers who are knowledgeable as well make dairy farming good business. “This institute will also encourage young people to embrace dairy farming, which can also be their source of income,” he said adding that this may, in future, address the problem of unemployment.
He says farmers are also taught on breeding of cows and goats and how to improve their breeds. He adds that with the training, Kenya will improve its milk production both for local consumption and export. Kenya is second from South Africa in milk production in Africa.
The students wake up at 5am and take up practical lesssons in the 45-acre piece of land. Among the skills farmers learn is the best methods of generating dietary fodder for their animals following the high prices of dairy meal and other constraints.
They are also taken to KCC and other milk processing plants where they learn how milk by products are made. According to the institute’s tutor and farm manager David Osomi, more than 100 farmers have graduated from the institution so far.The institute has capacity of admitting 25 students in a week.
“The farmers are taught on proper milking techniques, feeding and record keeping,” he adds. According to Osomi, skills learnt at the institute will help farmers with small farms increase yields even through zero grazing does not require large portions of land.“We have learnt that farmers have cows but they do not even know how to increase their yields or take care of calves,” he says.
As Magdaline Mbula from Eldama Ravine received her certificate after the one-week training, she had a reason to smile. “Through the training, I have realised the mistakes I have been making on my farm and I am going to change to increase production.”
According to her, she only feeds her cows on green matter, which she learnt was not good. “I feed my animals on greens as they come from the farm but I have learnt that I have to let them dry. I now know how to make sillage and grow other feeds instead of buying aminal feeds which are expensive,” she said.
According to Wamae, farmers are also taught how to store cow feeds for use during dry spells to avoid reduction of milk during this time. Wamae said that dairy farming should be encouraged as it is creating employment to many with milk being on high demand all through the year.
By Peris Wairimu
He said that more than 9,000 families depend on dairy farming in the country. Kenya produces at least five billion litres of milk yearly with 600 million litres reaching the processors and the rest being consumed at the local level.