Tech transformation: Digitalising Kenya’s dairy sector

New technologies are helping to transform dairy farming into an increasingly lucrative occupation for Kenyan smallholders. The use of digital weighing scales and solar-powered refrigerated transportation units are helping to minimise waste and maximise farmer profits.

New innovations are enabling Kenyan dairy farmers to receive better value for their milk © USAID/Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine

A digital scale and supply chain system, EASYMA 6.0, has enabled over 22,000 farmers in Kenya to receive more accurate payments for their milk, as well as access extension services, financial products, and even livestock insurance. Farmers weigh their milk at designated buyer collection centres to receive an automated receipt for the precise weight. The recorded weight is simultaneously registered via an online system with the collection centre’s main office, enabling farmers to receive immediate payment for their milk delivery.

Manual weighing often results in a loss of value for farmers. Richard Terer, a dairy farmer from Kenya’s Bomet County, explains, “The weighing was not very accurate. I would lose Ksh 3,000 to 3,500 (€24-28) per month.” But with the digital system, “Now, I get accurate kilos for my milk to the decimal point. I get value for my milk.” All farmer transactions are recorded by the system, including milk payments and deductions for input supplies. Loan and repayment information is also held in the system, which is then transferred to banks to allow farmers to access their money at ATMs or points of sale across Kenya.

To enable farmers to purchase products on credit, EASYMA 6.0 also links farmers to stores that supply animal feeds, health products and other services. Purchases are then deducted from payments for farmers’ milk deliveries. The improved access to inputs and extension services, such as artificial insemination, and farmers’ growing confidence in the weighing and payment process has benefited stakeholders along the value chain. “One thing I can say is that farmer loyalty is enhanced, which means we have also increased our milk intake and the number of farmers trading with us,” says Richard Soi, CEO of Siongoroi Dairy Plant, which uses the EASYMA 6.0 system developed in 2014 by Amtech Technologies Limited.

Transport of milk over significant distances along inaccessible roads also leads to loss of income for farmers due to milk spoilage. To address this problem, a Kenyan start-up, Savanna Circuit Technology Limited, has developed solar-powered refrigeration units for motorcycles and donkeys, which help to preserve milk during transportation. The motorcycles can carry up to 100 l of milk and cost €562 (Ksh 70,000) each. The company has also developed a smartphone app Maziwa Plus, which records the milk delivered via these units to provide data for loaning institutions to assess farmers’ credit worthiness.

Stephanie Lynch & Benson Rioba

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.