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Research on smallholder dairy production in coastal lowland Kenya

W.R. Thorpe¹, G. Mullins¹, L. Reynolds¹, S.H. Maloo², R.W. Muinga², J.G. Mureithi², M. Njuni² and A. Ramadhan²

1. International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA)

2. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) KARI/ILCA Collaborative Programme, PO Box 80147. Mombasa. Kenya

Background country information
Size and distribution of the livestock industry
Dairy production in Kenya
Previous research relevant to smallholder dairy development
Objectives of the programme
Development of the research programme
Organisation and participants: The research team and on-station programme
Research-extension-farmer linkages
Field studies
Planning and review of the research
Implementation of programme
Evaluation of research programme
Impact of research programme
Integration of research and development programmes
Future research programmes


Coastal lowland Kenya, in common with many similar areas of sub-Saharan Africa, ha. a large milk deficit yet has considerable potential to meet the unsatisfied demand through peri-urban milk production. In 1988, the Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI) and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) established a programme to identify and resolve biological, social and economic constraints to the development, adoption and productivity of sustainable smallholder dairy systems. The programme was planned and is carried out within a farming systems framework in collaboration with other institutions, especially the Ministry of Livestock Development's Extension service through its National Dairy Development Project (NDDP). The integrated programme of on-farm and on-station research covers farming systems description and constraint identification, and technology development and testing. Major research areas centre on studies of milk consumption and marketing smallholder resource management, disease risk to dairy cattle, feeding systems development and dairy cattle breeding.

Results to date have confirmed the large milk deficit East Coast fever has been shown to cause major losses in smallholder dairy cattle; however, these can be substantially reduced by immunisation through infection and treatment The seasonal feed shortages and inadequate nutrient concentrations in milk production diets are being addressed through integrating crops and livestock by intercropping fodder grasses, maize and cassava with shrub and herbaceous legumes and the application of cattle manure. Rotational crossbreeding has been shown to be an efficient breeding system for smallholder milk production. While collaboration with the NDDP has ensured strong research-extension farmer linkages resulting in, for example, on-farm forage studies including in 1992 farmer managed trials with Leucaena leucocephala and Clitoria ternatea on some 200 farms.

Studies of current farming systems and the assessment of resource levels indicate that for the majority of households, agricultural change will be a sequential intensification through the adoption of individual technological components rather than through the adoption of a multi-component package, such as the NDDP's zero-grazing package. Future research and extension should therefore emphasise scale-neutral technologies and principles and aim to provide a range of technological options adaptable to individual circumstances.


This paper describes the origins and subsequent development of a collaborative programme of research on smallholder dairy production between the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) and other cooperating institutions. The programme conducted research within a farming systems framework in pert-urban areas of coastal lowland Kenya.

Background country information

Statistics for 1987 show that Kenya had an estimated human population of over 22 million. Between 1980 and 1987, its annual population growth rate was 4.1%, one of the highest growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa (ILCA, 1991). For the same period, its annual change in gross national product (GNP) per capita was - 0.9%. GNP for 1987 was US$ 7.3 billion and GNP per capita was US$ 330. The latter was about double that of Tanzania (US$ 180), but appreciably lower than that of Zimbabwe (US$ 580).

Three-quarters of Kenya's land area is arid, about 10% semi-arid and some 14% highland. The highland zone is densely populated, supporting a large proportion of Kenya's rural inhabitants. Kenya's major urban centre, Nairobi, is also in the highlands. Currently, Kenya's second urban centre, Mombasa, and the surrounding coastal area, have a population of some 1.5 million people.

Kenya is renowned world-wide for its agriculture, particularly its coffee, tea and milk production, and tourism. Coffee, tea and milk production are concentrated in Kenya's highlands, while tourism is concentrated at the coast and in wildlife game parks.

Size and distribution of the livestock industry

Livestock, particularly ruminant species, are a major component of Kenya's economy (Table 1). In 1987, agriculture contributed some 31% of gross domestic product (GDP) and it is estimated that livestock production represented some 33% of agricultural GDP (ILCA, 1991). About 40% of the total labour force in the agricultural sector is said to be employed in livestock production (KARI, 1991). It is estimated that some 23% of total recorded marketed agricultural production is derived from cattle and small ruminants (KARI, 1991).

Table 1. Approximate national populations of livestock species and their distribution by major agro-ecological zones.



Major concentration


Specialist dairy


>90% highlands



>70% semi-arid and arid

Sheep and goats


>80% semi-arid and arid






Mainly highlands



Widespread nationally

The ability of ruminant livestock to generate income, employment and provide food are particularly important to the communities in the arid and semi-arid areas (Table 1). In the cropped areas, cattle produce milk, meat and hides and provide manure and draft power. The important contribution of draft and manure to major farming systems and their sustainability (McIntire et al, 1992), and therefore to the agricultural economy, is seldom recognised in national statistics. Moreover, a considerable proportion of livestock production does not enter formal marketing systems. As a result, the economic statistics given in the previous paragraph considerably underestimate the contribution of livestock to Kenya's economy and to the welfare of the agricultural community.

Dairy production in Kenya

In the Kenyan Government's 1986 paper on "Economic management for renewed growth", it is stated that milk production takes place on almost half of the 5.2 million hectares of land devoted to farming. The annual national production of milk was estimated to be about 1.6 billion litres, of which 60% was produced by smallholder herds in the high-potential (highland) areas, 30% came from herds on large-scale farms and 10% came from pastoral herds. Of the total milk produced, it was estimated that almost 40% entered the formal and informal markets and just over 15% was sold in urban areas.

It was suggested that if current consumption patterns continue total production would have to more than double to meet the increased demand expected by the year 2000.

The current (July 1992) retail price for pasteurised milk is about KSh 15/litre (US$ 0.33). The current annual production of some 1.8 billion litres is thus worth approximately US$ 0.6 billion annually.

Dairy development in the coastal lowlands of East and southern Africa has been limited, especially in the smallholder sector. This contrasts with the highlands, where smallholder dairy production contributes the majority of marketed milk. While areas of the coastal lowlands support subsistence milk production from local zebu herds, these herds contribute little towards meeting the demand for milk and dairy products from rapidly increasing urban populations such as Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

In 1990, over 19 of the 20 million litres of recorded (regulated) liquid milk sales in Kenya's Coast Province were produced outside the province (MLD, 1991). The milk was 'imported' as powder and butter oil from the highlands, and rehydrated in the parastatal Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) factory near Mombasa. The need for this 'imported' milk reflects the high local demand, estimated at 100 million litres annually, relative to the current local supply of about 33 million litres (MLD, 1991). In the absence of organised collection services, the large deficit encourages the informal marketing of locally produced fresh milk, which fetches a significant price premium. Even at current KCC prices, the deficit represents a potential milk market with a retail value of US$ 20 million.

In the higher rainfall (800-1300 mm) coastal agro-ecological zones, there is considerable potential to satisfy this excess demand for milk through pert-urban production. Currently there are a small number of productive and profitable large and medium-scale dairy units, whose size and number are expected to rise in response to market demand. Smallholdings, which are responsible for most of the agricultural production in the higher rainfall zones, also have good potential for intensive dairy production, as demonstrated by the National Dairy Development Project (NDDP) (van der Valk, 1988). By responding to the demand for milk through integrating dairy production into existing smallholder farming systems, incomes can be both increased and stabilised, employment opportunities can be created and household food security can be improved (Leegwater et al, 1990; Huss-Ashmore and Curry, 1992).

For this process of dairy development to be successful, research is required so that technical innovations can be tailored to smallholder resources and agro-ecological conditions. These technical innovations must then be supported by the development of matching input services and milk marketing infrastructure, all within a policy environment conducive to dairy production. It is only through the interaction of these policy and technical actions that dairy systems will be adopted and sustained by smallholder producers. It was this need for research and its required integration with extension and other development efforts which led to the establishment of the KARI/ILCA programme.

Previous research relevant to smallholder dairy development

The programme had available to it the extensive literature from the region. Examples of documented cattle production systems with milk as a major product are presented in Table 2. The results illustrate the wide range of systems and the divergent cow productivities in the coastal lowlands. They also confirm the technical potential for milk production at various levels of intensification.

Table 2. Examples of dairy production systems in coastal lowland Kenya.


Production system

Feed supplement

Breed type

Cow live wt (kg)

Annual milk yield (kg)*


Village, extensive grazing


E A. Zebu




Research station, extensive grazing


Sahiwal (S)



1/3S-2/3 Ayrshire



Research station, extensive grazing






Smallholder, zero grazing






Dairy ranch


2 3 S-1/3 Ayrshire



1/3 S-2/3 Ayrshire



* (Lactation milk yield x 385)/calving interval
** excludes milk consumed by calf

(400) Estimated liveweight

1. Maloo et al, 1988; 2. Mwandotto et al, 1990; 3 Njubi et al, 1992 4. van der Valk, 1988; 5. Gregory and Trail, 1981.

Factors likely to affect dairy production in the region have been investigated by various research groups. For example, publications on breed evaluation and production systems include those of Mahadevan and Hutchison (1964), Goldson (1973) and Shekimweri (1982). Research on major cattle diseases includes publications on trypanosomiasis by Trail et al (1985) and Paling et al (1987). Publications on tick-borne diseases, particularly East Coast fever, were recently reviewed by Norval et al (1992). Papers on feed resources range from various papers on natural pastures published in the 1960s and 1970s to recent publications on alley farming systems, for example Jama et al (1991).

The Farm Management Handbook of Kenya gives descriptions of farming systems (Jaetzold and Schmidt, 1983), while a more detailed study for the Kilifi area of coastal Kenya has been reported by Waaijenberg (1987). Crops receive far more emphasis than livestock in these systems reports.

Objectives of the programme

It was against this background of a large regional milk deficit and potential for smallholder dairy development that in 1988 an interdisciplinary collaborative programme was established between KARI's coastal Regional Research Centre (RRC) and ILCA. The objective of the programme was to identify and resolve biological, social and economic constraints to the development. adoption and productivity of sustainable smallholder dairy systems.

From an ILCA perspective, the target group of the programme's research is peri-urban, mixed crop-livestock smallholders in the medium rainfall, lowland tropics of sub-Saharan Africa. The target group from KARI's perspective, and the test group for ILCA, is pert-urban mixed crop - livestock smallholders in coastal lowland Kenya.

Development of the research programme

Government policies and institutional framework

The Kenyan Government's policy objective is to achieve or maintain self-sufficiency in all essential foods, including milk and dairy products, and to generate additional supplies for export.

Institutions central to achieving this policy goal are the Ministries of Livestock Development and Agriculture and KARI. KARI has parastatal status within the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and, together with relevant university departments, it has the national mandate for dairy-related research. ILCA's mandate in sub-Saharan Africa is to assist national efforts to increase the sustained yield and output of livestock products and improve the quality of life of the people of the region (ILCA, 1987). Milk from cattle is a major focus of ILCA's research.

KARI has research centres with national mandates, for example the National Veterinary Research Centre (NVRC), Muguga, complemented by a network of regional research centres (RRC). Each RRC has responsibility for adaptive and applied agricultural research in its surrounding area. An example of a RRC is the coastal centre at Mtwapa, the base of the KARI/ILCA programme.

During 1990, KARI undertook a comprehensive review and analysis of the research being carried out at all its centres. The review set out to identify the priority areas for research to support the Government's agricultural development goals and objectives (KARI, 1991). From over 50 commodities, the review identified milk as the number one research priority. Beef and small ruminants were ranked second and third and maize fourth. The review and priority setting exercise clearly demonstrated the prime importance of dairying to the growth of Kenya's agriculture and its economy and as the primary focus for KARI's resources.

Conception of the research programme

In 1987, KARI approached ILCA for assistance in developing a research programme to support smallholder dairy production in the coastal zone. As noted earlier, the region has a large, unsatisfied demand for mills The proposal fitted well with ILCA's institutional strategy and operational goals (ILCA, 1987). The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in May 1988 and the collaborative programme on dairy cattle research became operational in August 1988 when ILCA staff were attached to the RRC, Mtwapa.

The programme was conceived within a farming systems framework, and adopted a multidisciplinary approach to the description of farming systems and the identification of researchable constraints. Following systems description and constraint identification, those researchable constraints with highest likelihood of pay-off were then to be addressed through disciplinary and interdisciplinary experiments and studies. The research would lead to the development and evaluation of technologies and of organisational modes and research methodologies.

To effectively design and implement these programmes, KARI and ILCA consulted closely with the Ministry of Livestock Development's Livestock Extension service. Since 1981, the Livestock Extension service in coastal Kenya has concentrated its resources on smallholder dairy development through participation in the National Dairy Development Project (NDDP). The NDDP promotes smallholder dairy development through the dissemination of a zero-grazing package.

Planning the research programme

The planning process began in April 1988, prior to the assembling of the research team. The areas requiring research were agreed upon in a meeting of researchers, extensionists and veterinarians, who drafted protocols proposing:

· to estimate the demand for milk and dairy products

· to identify technical and policy constraints on production in mixed smallholder farming systems, especially dairy cattle systems

· to evaluate dairy cattle breed resources

· to estimate disease risk to dairy cattle and test disease control methods and

· to develop feeding systems appropriate to smallholder dairy production systems.

The comprehensive scope of the programme was based on the experiences of the livestock extension staff, particularly those working in the NDDP. The needs to estimate demand for milk and to describe farming systems, particularly dairy subsystems, acknowledged the lack of reliable statistics on milk consumption and on dairy cattle populations and their performance. Quantitative information on the demand for milk and the current cattle population was essential for deciding the programme's orientation. It was also necessary for efficient allocation of the programme's resources and for establishing frame sufficient to ensure impact.

The original research areas listed above remain the core of the programme. Figure 1 shows the components to which each cooperating institution contributes.

Figure 1. Institutional participation in the collaborative research programme on smallholder dairy production, coastal lowland, Kenya.

As well as evaluating technologies and assessing policies, it was expected that the programme would contribute to the development and testing of operational modes and research methodologies for dairy and related livestock and crop research in mixed smallholder farming systems. These could then be applied at other KARI RRCs and in similar programmes throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Postgraduate training of KARI and other researchers was another important element of the programme, aimed at developing sufficient human resources to ensure the long-term sustainability of the research programme.

Organisation and participants: The research team and on-station programme

The shared, well-defined goals agreed in 1988 by KARI, ILCA and their collaborating institutions (Figure 1) ensured that in a short time a team had been assembled and a comprehensive programme of applied and adaptive dairy research was being implemented. Forage agronomy and animal nutrition researchers already based at Mtwapa were joined by an animal scientist and an agricultural economist from ILCA and a veterinarian was seconded from the regional Veterinary Investigation Laboratory.

Based on the proposals in the original draft protocols, and with advice from disciplinary specialists, the researchers prepared detailed protocols for on-station experiments on feed resources (forage agronomy and animal nutrition). The focus of the feed resources research was the improvement, with minimal purchased inputs other than labour, of the quantity and quality of on-farm feed available for a zero-grazing system. The agronomic experiments evaluate the production of Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and maize and any changes in soil composition when they are intercropped with the leguminous shrub, Leucaena leucocephala, the forage legume, Clitoria ternatea, and the grain legume, cowpea. The experiments also evaluate the responses to slurry (liquid manure) application. The nutrition research uses the forages to evaluate responses of lactating cows fed basal diets of Napier to local supplements, including Leucaena foliage.

Simultaneously, plans were made with the Veterinary Department and the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD) for epidemiological studies of disease risk on smallholder cattle farms. Another programme was to evaluate dairy cattle genetic resources through the analysis of existing data sets.

Using the detailed protocols as bases for thesis proposals, the forage agronomist, nutritionist and veterinarian were registered for PhD degrees. Later, MSc students in animal breeding and agricultural economics were included in the training programme.

Research-extension-farmer linkages

Concurrent with the development of the station-based research, the team arranged farm visits and informal planning meetings with the dairy extension (NDDP) staff. These visits and meetings ensured interaction between researchers, extension staff and farmers, made the researchers more familiar with smallholder farming systems and their problems and orientated the programme towards field-based problems and studies. The research-extension-farmer contacts built up confidence between the three groups and helped develop working relationships.

By October 1988, it had been agreed with the dairy extension staff to concentrate the first phase of field studies in Kaloleni Division. In common with the majority of higher potential areas at the coast, land adjudication was already well advanced in Kaloleni. It was a basic assumption of the research-extension group that secure land tenure would be a prerequisite for sustainable dairy development.

The area selected had good access to the Mombasa market and some smallholder dairy production, including zero-grazing units started with the support of the NDDP. Kaloleni Division's high human population density (over 250 people/km² in some areas) and the resultant land-use intensification were seen as representing what might well exist over much of the higher rainfall areas of coastal Kenya by the years 2000-2010. This time horizon was thought appropriate as it was expected that it would be at least 10 years before research would contribute significantly to the productivity of smallholder farming systems.

Field studies

In accordance with the agreed research programme, a survey was carried out jointly by research and extension staff to characterise the Kaloleni smallholder farming systems and their resource bases. The survey covered the two higher rainfall agro-ecological zones, the semi-humid coconut-cassava zone (CL3) and the transitional cashewnut-cassava (CL4) zone (Figure 2) (Jaetzold and Schmidt, 1983). The latter borders on the semi-arid livestock-millet zone (CL5).

Figure 2. Agro-ecological zones and urban centres of coastal lowland Kenya and the location of the Kaloleni study area.

Subsequent field studies have included a census of all cattle herds and associated small ruminants, a survey of farm enterprise budgets and household economies and cross-sectional and longitudinal cattle disease surveys. The results of these surveys have been summarised by Thorpe et al (1992a). The data collection for these descriptive and diagnostic studies was completed at the end of 1991, some three years after the programme was established.

Planning and review of the research

The designs for and the results from the field studies and the experiments were and are reviewed in occasional meetings and monthly seminars with the extension staff and researchers from the cooperating institutions (Figure 1). There are also regular joint visits to farms by research and extension staff.

In 1991, it was agreed that the RRC would host a quarterly meeting of research, senior dairy extension staff (District Dairy Officers and above) and other invited participants to review past and current programme activities and to consider new proposals. These meetings are now complemented by research-extension working groups. For example, a current working group developed the protocol for, and is supervising the implementation of, farmer-managed forage trials. In addition, the results from the programme and the proposals for the next year's research are reviewed annually through the normal procedures followed by KARI and ILCA. Reports and papers presenting the results of the research are sent to both institutions for review.

Implementation of programme

Planned versus implemented programme activities

Since the initial planning meeting some four years ago (April 1988), the implementation of three aspects has been particularly encouraging: disease risk, carried out mainly on-farm; feed resources, with on-station experiments and on-farm studies; and breed evaluation through secondary data analyses. In each area, the research has produced recommendations for implementation by the Ministry of Livestock Development and demonstrated important principles and methodologies.

Progress on constraint identification through the farming systems survey and the subsequent related farm- and household-level socioeconomic studies has been less satisfactory. The team's agricultural economist resigned during the second year of the programme and a replacement was not in post until about 18 months later. The delay prevented the timely implementation of the studies on consumption and marketing of milk and dairy products, for which the data collection was not completed until March 1992. In the interim, a household economics and farm enterprise budget survey was carried out in collaboration with ILRAD. Given the programme's farming systems approach, the absence of a resident economist considerably hampered research planning and progress.

Achievements and failures

As the programme was without an economist at a crucial phase, the review of social and economic constraints limiting milk production and marketing has been insufficient. These issues are currently being re-examined. Another deficiency which contributed to the inadequate challenge of assumptions and preconceptions was the absence of crop specialists from most of the field studies. An important finding from the diagnostic studies was the lack of integration of crop and livestock enterprises on most smallholder farms; in consequence, potentially beneficial crop-livestock interactions were not exploited or were at best under-exploited (Thorpe et al, 1992a).

The failure to incorporate crop researchers and extensionists in the first phase of the programme has since been redressed to some extent. During 1992, crop, animal and social scientists have been engaged in diagnostic surveys addressing all aspects of smallholder agriculture at the coast. Within the dairy research programme, crop scientists have contributed to the design of a large intercropping experiment, begun in 1992, to investigate the contribution that crops, and particularly cassava, can make to solving seasonal feed deficits (Reynolds et al, 1992). The continual involvement of crop specialists will be essential to ensure that effective solutions are developed and tested for resolving feed resource issues and their related capital and labour constraints in those smallholder mixed farming systems where adoption or improvement of dairy production is the goal.

Four technical achievements stand out. The epidemiological studies have identified East Coast fever (ECF) as a major cause of losses in smallholder dairy cattle. The losses have been quantified and current control strategies shown to be ineffective. In collaboration with the NVRC and the Veterinary Department, target populations have been identified for an alternative control method, immunisation by infection and treatment (Mutugi et al, 1991), which has now been tested on some 500 smallholder dairy cattle. The research promises to substantially reduce losses due to ECF and provides a systematic methodology for the evaluation of disease risk in smallholder herds and for the identification of target populations for control measures (Maloo et al, 1992a). A further significant veterinary result is that field studies and on-station experimentation have shown trypanocidal drug prophylaxis to be ineffective in controlling trypanosomiasis in the coastal region (Maloo et al, 1992b). This has major implications for trypanosomiasis control in smallholder cattle in the region.

The feed resources programme has generated results through on-station and field research. It has shown the shortage of feed on most farms and modelling has demonstrated the scale of seasonal scarcity and the inadequacy of dietary nutrient concentration (Reynolds et al, 1992). On-station, it has been demonstrated that intercropping Napier grass with herbaceous and shrub legumes, and intercropping maize with shrub legumes, can produce more feed of considerably better quality than that readily available on most smallholder farms (Mureithi et al, 1992). The responses of lactating cows to supplementation with legume forage and low levels of concentrates have been quantified (Muinga et al, 1992a; 1992b). These agronomic and nutrition results show promise as the basis for sustainable feeding systems appropriate to smallholder resources.

Strong research-extension-farmer linkages have been formed to solve feed resource constraints. Early in the programme extension workers were impressed by the potential of the forage legumes on station. This led in 1990/91 to testing selected legumes on some 20 farms. Under research-extension management, unreplicated plots of Napier cultivar Bana intercropped with Leucaena, Clitoria and Siratro were established. The success of the Leucaena and Clitoria in these on-farm test plots has resulted in the establishment, during April/May 1992, of farmer-managed trials of Leucaena and Clitoria on some 200 farms in four districts of Coast Province. These farmer managed trials, jointly planned and executed with the dairy extension staff, will be an important step in the transfer of these legumes into existing farming systems.

A further important result has come from the analyses of crossbreeding performance records from KARI's Mariakani research station and from the large, privately-owned Kilifi Plantations herd. The analyses have confirmed the competitive performance of the two-breed rotational crossbreeding system as a means of sustaining performance close to that of Bos taurus-sired F1 dairy crosses (Thorpe et al, 1992b). Because of the simplicity and lower overhead costs of a rotational crossbreeding system, its biological and economic efficiency will surpass that of F1 crosses in most African production systems.

Evaluation of research programme

Government policy environment

In general, the policy environment in Kenya has been conducive to developing an effective livestock research programme, particularly with the increasing efforts by the ministries of Agriculture and Livestock Development to improve research-extension linkages. The potential for impact has been enhanced recently by the deregulation of milk prices, which is expected to stimulate the adoption of dairy production by a large number of new producers and result in the expansion of existing herds. The potential rapid expansion of smallholder dairy production in the coastal lowlands emphasises the importance of having readily available technologies appropriate to smallholder resources.

Institutional environment

The support being given to the ministries and to KARI by major development agencies through stimulating and funding programmes taking a farming systems approach was critical to the successful establishment and smooth running of the KARI/ILCA programme. National institutions are emphasising research-extension linkages and a farming systems perspective, with researchers expected to spend an increasing proportion of their time off station and on-farm.

While the institutional policy climate has been favourable, administrative adjustments to facilitate greater orientation to field-based research have yet to be finalised, a process hindered by the budgetary constraints imposed by the poor state of the Kenyan economy. The major change required is some redistribution of staff and funding from expensive research stations to field support programmes for on-farm research.

Appropriateness of technologies

The linkages of the KARI/ILCA programme to extension through the NDDP inevitably resulted in research with a bias towards the technology components of the NDDP's zero-grazing package, e.g. the cut-and-carry fodder grass, Napier.

Population growth and the consequent increased pressure on land is expected to lead to much greater intensification of land use in the next 20-30 years and therefore a move to cut-and-carry technologies. However, the farming systems studies clearly indicated that extensive systems that are more capital and labour efficient are currently more common (Table 3) and more appropriate to smallholder resources (Thorpe et al, 1992a). The availability of concentrates at prices that are low relative to farm-gate milk prices and the difficulties of maintaining Napier grass under coastal conditions and at current levels of farm management suggest that, for the time being, the cultivation of Napier should be given less emphasis, while the feeding of concentrates complemented by legume forages should be encouraged. Response curve experiments and financial analyses are required to define optimal concentrate levels.

Table 3. Number of herds in zero, semi-zero and free-range grazing systems for dairy arid mixed (dairy and local zebu) herd types in three agro-ecological zones, Kaloleni Division.

Agro-ecological zone

Herd type

Grazing system




Free range

Coconut cassava












































Proportion of total





Clearly, however, technology by itself is not enough. The deterioration of the government artificial insemination (AI) service is a major constraint on production from the current smallholder herd. The failure of AI delivery and the risk of ECF in most areas and of trypanosomiasis in others are the major biological constraints preventing many smallholders adopting dairying as an enterprise. Effective and sustainable delivery mechanisms for AI and disease prevention and control are required. Veterinary services must be re-organised to achieve effective delivery. Without improved delivery of veterinary services, a major, sustainable expansion of dairy production in the smallholder sector is most unlikely.

Impact of research programme

Government and institutional policies

Perhaps more than any other single factor, milk pricing policy influences the decision of smallholders whether or not to adopt milk production. The recent deregulation of milk prices has therefore been a major step towards increased milk production for Mombasa and its environs. The policy change has had a large effect on the market price of milk, stimulating a substantial price rise and a further reduction in the competitiveness of the formal market relative to the informal market. These changes will stimulate dairy development in the coastal lowlands.

Some policy makers favour concentrating resources for dairy research and development in the 'high potential' highlands, at the expense of the coastal lowlands. Any comparative advantage for highland production would have to offset the considerable cost of transporting milk from the highlands to the coast. An overconcentration of resources in the highlands will also indirectly incur economic and social costs resulting from the loss of income and employment which otherwise would have resulted from dairy development in the coastal region. Given the present organisation of the formal milk market, it is also quite apparent that Government policy is to subsidise consumers at its own expense and at the expense of producers. In the current economic and political climate it is likely that this policy will be reviewed, to the ultimate benefit of producers and consumers.

Integration of research and development programmes

Given the recent favourable changes in the policy environment for dairy development in the coastal lowlands, there is an urgent need for appropriate technologies to help new and existing producers satisfy consumer demand. With an estimated annual milk deficit of 60 million litres, over 30,000 additional dairy cows are required. The current estimated population is some 8000 cows. The principal challenge facing the KARI/ILCA programme is therefore to contribute to ensuring the most efficient research and extension support to expand the dairy industry at the coast. Success in Kenya can then be used as a model for other regions.

Since its inception in 1988, the KARI/ILCA programme has had considerable impact by integrating dairy research and extension through joint activities and structures, thereby ensuring a strong linkage between research, extension and farmer. The linkage promises more-effective development, testing and transfer of dairy technologies that are appropriate to smallholder systems.

Nevertheless, this integration has been largely restricted to extension staff committed to the NDDP, which is exclusively devoted to transferring a zero-grazing technology package. This package was not developed from research under the agro-ecological or social and economic conditions prevailing in the region. It can therefore be argued that greater impact could now be achieved by widening the responsibilities of the dairy extension staff so that dairy extension advice could be given to all actual and potential dairy producers, rather than concentrating extension services on adopters and potential adopters of the zero-grazing package.

In the coastal lowlands of East and southern Africa, tree cash crops, particularly coconut palms and cashewnuts, dominate the farming systems. Due to their age and other factors, the productivity of many of these tree crop plantations is now declining. Consequently, farm cash incomes are falling as the rate of population increase overtakes the speed at which farmers can adjust their farming systems. The result is falling land and labour productivity, with off-farm employment contributing increasingly to household incomes. In a farm household budget survey, the KARI/ILCA/ILRAD team found that off-farm income contributed on average 70% of total household income, which in any case averaged only US$ 300 per person per year. An alternative, the intensification of agriculture, demands investment. But this necessarily implies credit, which is generally not available. Adoption of dairy production also greatly increases risk in farming systems which are designed to be risk-averse (Thorpe et al, 1992a). At the levels of smallholder resources found in these farming systems, technological change is more likely to be undertaken in a stepwise fashion - a sequence of new components are introduced which accumulate into sustainable and productive resource management systems - rather than sudden change through the adoption of a multi-component technology package, such as the NDDP's zero-grazing package.

Hence, improved production of tree cash crops and subsistence food crops will be essential to sequential intensification of lowland agriculture, with crop-livestock interactions benefiting food production and cash income and, in turn, their stability and sustainability. The importance of incorporating crop specialists in an integrated programme is therefore re-emphasised.

Future research programmes

To support the expansion from the current 8000 cows to the 40,000 required to meet estimated demand, future research should focus on improving reproductive rates by reducing reproductive wastage and increasing reproductive efficiency. Disease and feed resource research is required, with feeding systems development closely linked to crop research. Appropriate delivery mechanisms for health and mating services and concentrate feeds need to be developed. Organisational modes such as that begun in Kilifi District with the Bahari Milk Club (a farmers' group which organises milk marketing and the supply of dairy inputs) and similar models in Tanga, northern Tanzania, need replicating. These principles will be applicable in all areas where the introduction and adoption of dairy production can catalyse agricultural development led by market demand.

Whenever possible, new research should emphasise scale-neutral technologies and principles and should aim to provide a range of technological options adaptable to the individual circumstances of farmers/households. This philosophy will ensure that the research can serve dairy producers of any scale. Time may well show that our chosen target group, smallholder farmers, are not the major adopters of our work.


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