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Meru Dairy Co-operative Union success story

Meru Dairy Co-operative Union Limited, a Kenyan milk processor of Mount Kenya Milk Products, was founded in 1967 joining the thriving cooperative movement.

The Union represents over 400,000 farmers and over 80 member Cooperatives making it one of the largest milk producers and marketers in Kenya.

The powerful union which runs its own milk brand dubbed Mount Kenya Milk is owned and run by Dairy farmers and over the years has proved successful in helping farmers navigate complex markets.

Meru Dairy Co-operative Union Limited has proved to be vital in the Kenyan economy and has led by example in poverty reduction and providing key social services through empowering and transforming the lives of the dairy farmers

The Cooperative was formed with the objective of helping farmers market their milk produce. While many cooperative unions have collapsed due to the competitive nature of the market and dwindling economy due to the high cost of living, Meru Dairy Co-operative Union Ltd is one of the few that have survived, continuing to operate nimbly with its committed membership and focus on value-added, small-scale production.

The union collects, processes, and sells milk on behalf of farmers. It also trains members, providing information about how to manage animals to increase production, improve protein content in milk or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.

Over the years Meru Dairy Co-operative Union Ltd has shown how Kenyan farmers can improve food security and increase their incomes through dairy farming without harming the land.

Currently, Meru Dairy Cooperative Union milk plant processes 406,000 litres of milk daily however the union’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kenneth Gitonga says the plant has the capacity to process more milk. The CEO argues that farmers could potentially produce even more milk if not for the high cost of feed.

“Our main aim for holding field day is to see how we can increase our milk production both for local consumption and export in order to increase our earnings. We have cows, but the average production of milk is still low, with an average production per farmer standing at five litres. Our agenda is how to increase the productivity of our cows from five to ten litres and this will now be a dream come true following interventions by the President,” Mr Gitonga said during a recent field day that was graced by President William Ruto at Gitoro showground.

According to Mr Gitonga, the Union has already acquired a piece of land where they were set to establish a factory for the manufacturing of animal feeds in order to ensure that farmers have access to cheap and standard animal feeds.

“We are grateful that the government has also promised to give us Sh100 million out of the Sh200 million we require to set up the industry, and this will go a long way in boosting our milk production as a dairy union,” said Gitonga.

Meru Dairy Cooperative Union has been receiving recognition as an outstanding Cooperative due to the prize-winning quality of its milk, an environment of solidarity among its members, its ability to improve the livelihood of its members, and its stable commercial relationships with its clients.

During a recent dairy farmers’ field day at Gitoro in Meru County President William Ruto commended the Meru Dairy Farmers Union for its remarkable growth and pledged a sum of Sh100 million for the establishment of a feed factory.

President Ruto who visited alongside his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua, expressed his administration’s commitment to providing an additional Sh100 million to supplement the union’s existing Sh200 million for the facility’s establishment.

“I extend my congratulations to Meru Central Dairy for the outstanding work you have done in empowering dairy farmers. The government will offer its support to help you achieve even greater heights. I have been informed me about the land acquisition here in Imenti and your plans to produce your own animal feeds, ensuring adherence to quality standards. With Sh200 million already allocated to this project, the national government will provide an additional Sh100 million to boost your project,” the president said.

According to Rose Kanyua a dairy farmer in Meru, the Union has enabled farmers to cut out middlemen entirely, processing milk directly, and transporting it to market hence increasing revenue.

“Despite the high cost of animal feeds Meru Dairy Co-operative Union Limited has helped us to improve our income and livelihood,” Kanyua Said.

Kanyua notes that supplying her milk to Meru Dairy Cooperative Union has guaranteed her access to a range of credit facilities such as agro-vet products, and loans among many others, an amount she says is later deducted from the value of the milk she has supplied through check-off system.

Lauding Meru Dairy Cooperative Union for its support to farmers, Nicholas Murimi a farmer says farmers should consider rearing more dairy cows to create employment as well as improve their living standards.

“It is very clear that dairy farming is set to be the next gold mine, and we need to grab this chance at the earliest opportunity in order to reap the benefits emanating from the ongoing government efforts,” Murimi added.

Dairy farming in Kenya is one of the premier industries in terms of revenue generation and a profitable industry that has an abundant prospect of becoming a high revenue-generating segment in the future years if it is managed efficiently. It is also one of the most sophisticated and largest industries in Africa due to the high demand for milk products and other dairy products.

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