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Cashing in on cows

©IFAD/David Paqui

Through the project, Kirwa received further training in animal husbandry, feeding techniques, dairy business skills and investment finance.

3 May 2016 –  A farmer from Kapseret Ward in Western Kenya, he started out this new venture with two dairy cows and a lot of determination.Willy Kirwa became a dairy farmer in 2005 after having had little success growing crops.

And through an IFAD-supported programme, he gained two other important ingredients of success as well: finance and knowledge.

After these visits, Kirwa received further training in animal husbandry, feeding techniques, dairy business skills and investment finance.Starting in 2007, Kirwa took part in the IFAD-supported Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme (SDCP). He participated in a farmer exchange programme, visiting other parts of Kenya such as Kiambu, Machakos and Nyandarua.

He put these new skills to good use, creating a proposal and business plan to expand his dairy farm commercially. Based on his plan, he secured a loan from the Agricultural Finance Corporation, a government development financial institute in Kenya.

With this support, his business really began to take off. Today, Kirwa has grown his farm to 50 more productive dairy cows, substantially increasing his daily income.

“I have increased milk production from 3 to 6 litres to an average of 25 litres of milk per cow, per day,” says Kirwa. “I now have a contract with the major milk processors in Kenya, such as New Kenya Co-operative Creameries and Brookside, to supply both with 500 litres per day.”

Kirwa’s story shows how investing in agriculture can transform lives and rural communities. Not only is Kirwa benefiting; his farm is now a model farm that receives visitors from all over Kenya. Kirwa was able to pull himself out of poverty, and is now using his success to help and inspire others.

Over 200 small dairy-farming  trainees attend his courses every week. Kirwa’s activities are an example of how rural people can take charge of their own development, given the right tools.Kirwa has developed a dairy management training centre where he can share his farming knowledge with his community. This facility trains other farmers in animal husbandry, feed production and use.

Kirwa is further exploring the opportunities presented by new ideas and technologies to modernize his business. As a first step he sent his son, Denis Kipkoech Biwot Kirwa, to be trained in dairy management in the Netherlands.

“My son is fully involved in the dairy farm’s management with me, and even taught me how I can control the status of the cows from my mobile phone,” says Kirwa.

“He uses computer software to control the feeding, vaccinations and the insemination of the cows. My son is now doing post-secondary school training in animal husbandry and he intends to develop his own farm because he sees dairy farming as a lucrative business.”

Willy Kirwa’s success story shows how a small beginning can lead to big changes. And how smallholder agriculture can be a profitable, modern business that can attract a new generation who will produce food for the future.