Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cooperative empowering farmers through milk bulking

By Bob Aston
Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd in Maji Mazuri Ward, Eldama Ravine Sub County is changing the lives of more than 4,500 farmers in Baringo County.
Registered in 1982, the organization has been marketing farmer’s milk, providing farm inputs and artificial insemination services through check-off system, training farmers on best agricultural practices, providing transport services to farmers and market research and development.
Mumberes Farmers Cooperative committee members with maize farmers from Laikipia

Mr. Isaac Tubei, Chairman Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd said that milk bulking accounts for 90 percent of their business activity. The cooperative collects an average of 12,000 litres of milk per day, which they sell to Home Cow Creamers and the local community. In 2016 the cooperative recording milk intake of 3 million litres.

Notable achievements of the cooperative include purchase of 10,000-litre capacity milk cooler and other accessories at a cost of Kshs 7.5 million shillings, monthly produce advance facility to members worth kshs 600,000, and setting up of three agrovets and two milk bars.
Others include employment of 25 permanent staff, office modernization at a cost of Kshs 450,000, erecting a new building worth Kshs 1.2 million shillings. The building has housed a modern kitchen, washing bay and two milk coolers.
Mr. Tubei said that the cooperative has computerized all its operations through use of Management Information Systems (MIS), digital weighing scales, swipe cards, and bulk sms.
Use of Information and communication technologies (ICT) has reduced time for payments from 15 to 3 days. In addition, milk recording and handling has improved member’s confidence, as the digital weighing scales are more accurate as they weigh to a decimal place.
“We have laid a lot of emphasis on information sharing at the cooperative society. Every three months all the directors are required to hold an information day in order to brief members on the progress of the cooperative. We are also using our website and Facebook page to keep in touch with our members,” said Mr. Tubei.
The cooperative has stocked animal feeds, milking salves, mineral supplements, and farm equipment’s at the agrovets.
Mr. Tubei said that they have set aside a demonstration farm with various fodder crops and fodder trees. Extension officers usually train farmers at the demonstration farm on fodder production and management. In addition, the cooperative has a zero grazing unit fitted with biogas digester. Extension officers are using the unit to train members on feeding and management of dairy cows.
Mumberes Farmers Cooperative demonstration plot
To ensure that members improve the quality of their breeds, the cooperative has outsourced Artificial Insemination (AI) services. The members pay for the service through a check-off system as the members are deducted the cost when they deliver milk.
To improve saving culture amongst the members, the cooperative has established Village Savings and Loans Association. The cooperative has also linked members to Skyline Sacco to enable them access affordable credit.
Mr. Tubei said that they have an elaborate succession plan through formation and professionalization of a youth council. The council has been actively involved in recruiting more youths to the cooperative as well training them on dairy farming.
The cooperative mode of election is slightly different, as contestants have to apply for any elective post. A subcommittee then vets the list of aspirants. Each of the nine administrative unit of the cooperative then elects one representative.
Mr. Tubei noted that water shortage used to affect milk bulking and chilling but the situation has since improved after the County government improved water supply in the area.
The cooperative has also constructed a 20 m by 4 m water tank as well as investing in other water harvesting technologies. The tank can serve the cooperative for a period of 3 months when there is no water.
The cooperative intends to collaborate with local banks to offer Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) services through Sacco-Link and M-Banking Networks that will enable the members to access their accounts using mobile phones and make deposits using assigned pay bill numbers.
He said that the cooperative is also planning to establish a community-learning centre. The centre will enable farmers to access farming innovations, market information, and development issues. The cooperative also intends to start an animal feed mill.
Mumberes Farmers Cooperative Society is a strong testament that a well-managed cooperative can help reduce farmer’s production cost as well as ensuring that farmers enjoy the benefits of bulk producing.
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