Factors influencing participation of dairy farmers in cooperative societies: the case of North District, Eastern Province, Kenya
Kituto, Kitele M
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The Dairy industry in Kenya contributes over 3.5% to the Country's total GDP, and 14% of Agricultural GDP, with its over 625,000 small holder farmers who have been marketing their produce jointly through dairy cooperatives and other producer groups. Currently, over two million Kenyans are employed in the sector in one form or another. Over the last ten years or so, the over 165 registered dairy cooperatives have been threatened with collapse, with some actually collapsing due to decreased member participation. Farmer groups and cooperatives thrive on economies of scale, but since liberalization, most dairy farmers have opted to market their produce through other marketing channels thereby reducing the competitiveness and viability of most of the dairy cooperatives. The once vibrant dairy cooperatives in Imenti North District have lost members to the other players in the industry, and are currently collecting less than 15% of what they used to collect some 15 years ago, despite an increase in general milk production in the area and the country as a whole. Naari Dairy Cooperative's active members at the time of the study, were 150 out of2850 registered dairy farmers and was collecting 250 liters of milk per day from the over 4,000 liters it used to collect at its peak daily in the early 1990's. It was once at par in the early 1980'swith current giant milk processor Githunguri Dairy in Kiambu, currently collecting and processing over 100,000 liters daily, according to the regulator Kenya Dairy Board. This Research used the Conceptual framework and through it sought to provide evidence based indications of the factors influencing farmers' participation in Naari Dairy Cooperative in lmenti North District, Eastern Province in particular and in Kenya as a whole. The methodology used was a descriptive survey, while stratified random sampling and purposive sampling was done to obtain a representative sample. Means, percentages, ratios, were used to analyze the data. The Research concluded that the Economic, Management and Leadership factors were key areas which led to the erosion on farmers' confidence in the dairy cooperative movement. This coincided with the change of Government policy in the form of liberalization, and dairy farmers got alternative markets for their milk, as the dairy cooperative collections nosedived. The study strongly recommends urgent measures aimed at streamlining the managementstructures, marketing and investment initiatives by the Dairy Cooperatives. Dairy copperatives must exploit the opportunities offered by liberalization to their advantages, and make their services competitive and attractive to fanners and thereby reclaim the lost and eroded confidence back to its members. Prosperity in the sector for Naari farmers and nationally will only be achieved through the creation of opportunities that enable the people to actively contribute to, and influence their own development processes, and thereby share equitably in the fruits of development.