Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Improved Milk Consumption - Will Kenya Dairy Board & Milk Processors hack it?

The Kenya Dairy Milk and milk processing firms in Kenya want you to consume more milk. This is contained in a promo which stated with a TV ad (If you have not seen the advert yet, you can catch the YouTube link here ) among other media promos.
Want Milk? 

Most farmers will applaud this but the tough job will be how to sustain the consumption amidst changing feeding patterns in and around the region. According to an article appearing The East African title 'Got Milk? Kenya's Dairy firms in joint publicity campaigns' Kenyans remain the highest consumers of milk in the East African region ....this is a fact usually seen in simple practice as tea-making and taking which is easily Kenya's 'social drink'. In some countries such as Tanzania, black tea or coffee is more common,a trait replicated in countries such as Ethiopia and shattered Somalia.
The same article also notes the case for lactose intolerance ( a condition where the human body lacks the digestive enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose contained in milk). Its is quite high in most adults in the country though majority still do not know they suffer from the same. This is bound to hamper consumption of milk in its purest form ( yoghurt and other cultured milk such as mala can be consumed by those suffering from lactose intolerance if you may).
This campaign seems to be targeted at all the age groups though from the TV ad, there might be a misleading element if one has to be a kid to drink milk or if its meant for the 'young at heart'.
The other dilemma is if the milk processors are able to sustain the milk production without compromising on both the quantity and quality. In February and March of this year, there was a milk glut in most urban centres which led to a price increase of almost 35% of the commodity. Fairly good rains in most of the agricultural regions has seen the milk output increase and reach optimal levels. However, a lot of wastage is still seen in some areas where the infrastructure is lacking.
Another case study which the Kenya Dairy Board needs to remember is the Nyayo milk - the free milk programme in primary schools in the 1980s and early 90s. Though the milk was secured to milk processing firms, much of the content consumed at the schools had been stripped off much of its nutritional value. There were also reports of drugs lacing the milk to induce impotence among other claims. Such scenarios would be in the offing if the KDB would decide to revisit such a programme as earlier indicated in the year.
Also, if the campaign is to be successful, dairy farmers across the country need be included and remunerated well for their efforts in ensuring good milk production and supply. The whole supply chain needs to be streamlined to see to it few or no bottlenecks exist. The farmers can also participate in weekly or monthly awareness forums to sensitise locals on the need for consuming milk.
David Rudisha takes mursik too - 
Another element which the KDB would have 'milked' is the sportsmen and women from this country.That they have been able to make their exploits across the world thanks to regular consumption of milk is without a doubt. Maybe someone should even look at patenting and packaging the famous mursik from the Rift Valley region ( some sports science researchers have tried to link its consumption to Kenya's prowess on the track but no conclusive findings have been ever been made). Imagine would impact this would have when our world-beaters at the Olympics hold up a gourd/glass of this drink at every public event and aggresively engage in its consumption?
All in all, it is a good start and it is our hope that the renewed interest in milk consumption will not just benefit the milk processors who are more commercially driven but also work to promote a healthy feeding culture in the country and region. It should also benefit the farmers with increased earnings from their labour in dairy farming.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

ASK Shows - Do They Make Any Agro-Business Sense Anymore?

In a few days, the ASK Kisumu Show will be opening doors to farmers, business men and the usual entourage of students, learning institutions and financial institutions to name but a few. Oh you might want to add the usual circus of our Kenyan politicians who come to open or close the Show(s) or award this or that 'Best Stand', 'Best Exhibitor', 'Best Parastatal' or ' Best Cow' etc.
ASK Official Logo

But strictly speaking have ASK Shows lost their essence and become more about showmanship than agricultural and business learning places?

Information from the ASK website,(which I must say was a complete suprise to see that they even have an up-to-date website) shows that these exhibitions started in Kenya back in 1901, about 111 years ago. Kenya then being under what was to become a British colony, had seen farmers from parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and others as far as Australia eventually settling in the country. It started out as the East African Agricultural and Horticultural Society (EAA& HS). It's objective was to 'promote agricultural development based on European settlement'.

It was renamed the Royal Agricultural Society of Kenya in 1949 at the height of colonial rule in Kenya. In 1964 it dropped the 'Royal' to remain Agricultural Society of Kenya as it is to date. Since the initial stages, it has enjoyed patronage from Government officials. It's current patron is the Head of State with the Agriculture Minister ( along with the unnecessary Minister of Livestock Development & Fisheries) serving as Deputy Patrons.

Currently there are 3 categories;

  • International Fairs - including Nairobi International Trade Fair and Mombasa International Show;
  • National Shows -  which have Kitale, Eldoret, Nyeri, Meru, Nakuru and Kisumu Shows;
  • Regional Shows - with Embu, Kakamega, Kisii, Kabarnet, Machakos, Garissa and Nanyuki Shows
Enough with the history of ASK, and now to the more urgent issues. In all honesty, some of the reasons why agriculture does not enjoy uptake among the youth and younger at heart is the fact that most of the practices are not 'youth-friendly'.
ASK Logo - courtesy of
The last time I went for such a Show was the Nairobi International Fair some few years ago and besides bored officials sent from the offices and others there for the simple fact that they will earn some daily allowances. It was quite hard to extract meaningful information, with most telling you to go visit your nearest Agricultural official, KARI ( Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) centre among others. Well the reason I went for the Show is so that I can get that information easily at one go!
Secondly this exhibitionist nature is just for show quite literally. It would be more practical if they managed to have successful farmers showing us how and what they did to improve yields on their farms and how they might have tackled issues such as pests, diseases or low soil fertility. That way it would be make more sense to some of us. Those demo farms that are usually there serve for the purpose of showing ideal situations but very few farmers have such situations in their farms - if you get what I mean.

Well they do try to showcase the animals which come to be paraded and eventually sold out in some auction either to face the butcher's knife or become a prized piece for some farmer's cattle. This is one of the few reasons that it still makes sense to those of us keeping animals for commercial reasons. But besides the grade breed cows - the Friesians, Jerseys and others of this world- it would also be good to showcase mixed breeds too.

And while there are many young schooling students and farmers who show up to the grounds, I can assure you 75% of them have never held a hoe or panga save for the time they have to attend to some punishment meted out in school. Right from the days they step in school, they are made to understand their mission in school is to pass and move on to blue-collar jobs - doctors, lawyers and engineers - no dirtying of hands there!

Such shows should have tertiary institutions come with the best-of-practice and innovations they have been working on to make sure that they attract attention not just from budding farmers but also from investors who may fund their ideas from lofty dreams to practical work.

The Show should also ensure some of the outreach services that are usually show-cased at the grounds cane be extended beyond the 3-5days that people visit the venues. This should be to see that those who may have burning queries continue to be served by the agriculture and livestock officers - services such as A.I, veterinary, etc.

And it ought to be that exhibitors show innovative ways of working on the farms and getting better output from their animals. This thing of regurgitating the same exhibits and ways of doing business is just boring. When you see the same thing in one Show to the next, it not only becomes monotonous but annoying.

Out of curiosity by the way, do they still have membership for young and other members? I remember back in the day when one of my parents bought us the Junior members cards. This meant with that card I could gain entry to any Agricultural Show without having to pay any gate charges. Wonder how many junior members they have these days....

That I can't renew such membership on an annual basis, the way I do for such services as A.A (Automobile Association of Kenya) membership. And the challenge for ASK going forward is to entice the younger generation to take up farming and offer alternatives to the careers. Farming is no longer a part-time job as many would be wont to believe.

For all you Kisumu young farmers go forth this weekend and make them understand this...

{Thanks to the people working on the ASK website, the info was helpful though I wish you had more details on the National & Regional Shows -unique features of each}