In Kenya, private sector-driven alliance to focus on animal nutrition as a pathway to food security

October 08, 2020

This unique partnership is using data and technology to improve livelihoods of women smallholder dairy farmers and build resilience of local food systems.

Corteva Agriscience™, Land O’Lakes Venture37, Bidco Land O’Lakes, Forage Genetics International (FGI), and  the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have forged an alliance that aims to empower 5,000 women smallholder dairy farmers by increasing their productivity and incomes. By applying climate-smart technologies and techniques, these farmers will enhance the quality and quantity of milk supply for consumers, contributing to food and nutrition security across the nation.

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus vulnerabilities in the global food system. Forged in response to these challenges, this alliance of private sector, non-profit and research organizations is working together with the shared goals of building the resilience and sustainable practices of smallholder dairy farmers to improve local dairy markets and support the nutritional needs of Kenya’s young children, pregnant and lactating women, and the general population. 

Chronic malnutrition causes an irreversible condition of child stunting, which results in poor health and lower cognitive development. As a result, stunting leads to lower opportunities in economic outcomes in adult life. Kenya, while making significant progress on this, still has child stunting rates of over 26 percent (UNPD 2020). Improving availability and access to safe, affordable nutrient-dense food like dairy products is part of solution. 

Kenya’s dairy sector is a critical source of nutrition, with local farmers producing more than five billion liters of milk per year, one of the highest yield levels in Africa. The Kenyan dairy industry also provides livelihoods for over two million households while supporting local per capita milk consumption, which averages 100 liters (26 gallons) per year. However, consumption continues to outpace local production by nearly two billion liters. Investments in the dairy sector are needed to improve the quantity and quality of milk available in local markets. Dairy farmers often lack the access to knowledge of improved techniques and technologies. As a result, productivity remains low.

Applying data-driven insights at the smallholder level to improve animal nutrition and human food security

There are many ways to improve productivity and profitability of dairy farms, but the most immediate, and often most cost-effective, way is through improved animal nutrition. Quality forage is a particularly valuable source of feed for dairy cows. Combined with improved livestock practices and other feed sources, utilization of cost-effective forages can empower farmers to significantly increase the quantity and quality of the milk they produce. Forage is a critical input to optimal livestock feed security and farmer success; it is also a critical input to improved human food security and well-being. Optimizing diets of livestock has also been shown to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of livestock production.

Using data from in-country and regional forage trials and testing, this alliance is committed to strengthening the forage component of smallholder farmer dairy production in Kenya. The alliance combines Corteva and FGI’s private sector leadership in the forage industry with ILRI’s locally-based, world-renowned forage R&D capabilities and Land O’Lakes Venture37’s extensive experience adapting advanced technologies and techniques to the smallholder farmer level and facilitating last-mile delivery of key inputs. Bidco Land O’Lakes, a Kenya-based feed mill, is working closely with these partners to offer compound feed that complements effective forages – as feed is not nearly as impactful unless the animal is also consuming quality forage. 

The alliance will also develop market linkages between farmers to increase their access to forage (corn silage and hay) for those who do not have large enough landholdings to grow their own feed. Fifty commercial farmers who have 30 or more milking cows and 20 to 60 hectares of land have been identified in the Nakuru, Kericho, Kiambu, Eldoret, Nyeri districts. Each will receive training on appropriate agronomy techniques for growing, harvesting, conserving, and feeding forages to their cows for optimum production. Through these efforts, these farmers will increase their productivity, and will be able to sell their surplus production to women smallholder dairy farmers. 

In addition to the emphasis on diversified, complementary animal nutrition sources, the alliance will work with 5,000 women smallholder dairy farmers to enhance other components of dairy production. This includes training and education on dairy management, hygiene, and quality control. Smallholder farmer herd sizes range from one to 30 cows on 20 hectares or less, and are in the target Kenyan regions of Kiambu and Meru.

Together, Corteva, Land O’Lakes Venture37, Bidco Land O’Lakes, FGI and ILRI aspire to achieve shared goals in Kenya to positively impact generations to come. This private sector-driven alliance also has ambitions to expand this applied data approach to building resilient food systems globally. 

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