- Living and working in Canada where dairy farming is a huge enterprise, Gertrude knew the farmers in her village were sitting on gold and only needed help to actualise their potential.
- The group later established five collection points to ensure efficiency in milk delivery, with the number of farmers joining the outfit named Chatime Jabali Group growing to 30.
- The milk vending machine has helped them actualise their dream of doing away with the middlemen and selling their milk directly to the consumer.
- Romano Kithiki, a member of the group, says initially he had one animal, earning an average Sh3,000 per month but today his earnings have risen five-fold as he has three cows.
For years, farmers in Charuru, Muthara ward of Meru County, relied on tea and coffee, offering little attention to dairy farming.
A majority reared two cows at most for their subsistence and sold the surplus milk to vendors often for as low as Sh30 a litre.
The farmers would always complain and one of their own, Gertrude Imaana, sought to change the tide.
Living and working in Canada where dairy farming is a huge enterprise, Gertrude knew the farmers in her village were sitting on gold and only needed help to actualise their potential.
She started by organising them into a group of 15 members in 2016, and helped them come up with guidelines on how to manage the outfit.
This included electing officials, drafting a constitution, laying down penalties for members who miss meetings or fail to honour their financial obligations.
Members agreed to contribute Sh6,500 as registration fee and remit Sh300 each month, allowing farmers to take loans from the pool.
“We started by collecting the little milk produced and selling locally at Sh50 a litre but we soon discovered a huge demand of the produce in the nearby market centre named Muriri. Each farmer was contributing two to three litres raising up to 70 litres,” recounts Gertrude, who holds a Masters in Education degree.
The group later established five collection points to ensure efficiency in milk delivery, with the number of farmers joining the outfit named Chatime Jabali Group growing to 30.
To avoid adulteration and ensure quality milk, an alcohol test is conducted at the collection centre every time milk is delivered.
Farmers are also advised to observe hygiene practices by ensuring that their milk containers are clean, disinfected, sterilised and dried in the sun.
The farmers are further asked to keep milk awaiting transportation in a shade or in a well-ventilated room. Under warm climate, bacteria in milk grows quickly.
“With the number of milk having surged, we established three selling points; two in Muriri and one in Charuru and bought two small freezers at Sh100,000 from our savings to ensure that the milk is cooled and maintained at temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius,” says Morris Mutuma, the group’s treasurer.
But even with two freezers, Mutuma explains they further acquired a pasteurising machine as milk is highly perishable and can pass pathogens that produce diseases to humans.
DOING AWAY WITH MIDDLEMEN
In September last year, the group achieved a milestone by buying the pasteuriser and a milk ATM, each with a capacity of 200 litres at Sh600,000 — money from their savings, making it the first vendor in the region to pasteurise their milk.