BBC World Service features Kenya’s dairy story

The third edition of the BBC World Service series Small is Beautiful will be broadcast on Thursday 6th April and this week looks at Kenya's highly successful informal dairy sector.
The BBC series is examining the future of small business and which types of businesses will survive in the long term. In a world that seems to be dominated by big corporations, will it be the big businesses that produce high quantities at least cost that will survive, or the smaller ones?

The series Small is Beautiful takes its inspiration from a book published thirty years ago by the famous economist E.F. Schumacher. In his book, “Small is Beautiful”, Schumacher argued that small business is better for people, better for national economies and better for the environment.

This week you can hear about Kenya’s thriving milk industry. The programme will be broadcast at 09.30 and 17.30 on BBC FM in Nairobi on Thursday 6th April, or you can listen online at the BBC website from 10.06 GMT Thursday 6th April.

Previous broadcasts in the BBC World Service Small is Beautiful series looked at the producers of Parma Ham in Italy and banana producers of the Caribbean.

Key drivers of the informal dairy sector in Kenya
Kenyans love milk! They consume more of it than almost anyone else in the developing world. On average, each Kenyan drinks about 100 kilograms of milk a year, four times the average for sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the milk bought is raw milk supplied by the informal dairy sector. Mostly because of higher price, processed pasteurized milk is consumed in much smaller amounts, except in Nairobi. Studies indicate that the formal market will grow only as household incomes increase. Thus, the informal market is likely to predominate for many years to come, as it is driven by demand from mostly poor consumers.

There are several reasons why raw milk is so popular in Kenya:

  • Raw milk is 20 to 50 percent cheaper than pasteurized milk, as its supply involves fewer costs
  • Many prefer the taste and high buttermilk content of raw milk
  • Raw milk can be sold in variable quantities, allowing even very poor households access to some milk
  • In areas where transport is poor, it is often easier to find a farmer with a cow than a shop with packaged milk
  • It is traditional that raw milk is boiled before consumption, and consumers feel justifiably that simply boiling raw milk removes most health hazards.

ILRI and partners recognise the roles played by both the informal and formal dairy sectors and have long been advocating for policies that support the harmonious coexistence of the two sectors and their further development in the medium term, while aiming for growth in the formal sector in the longer term.

The Kenya Smallholder Dairy Project
The highly successful Kenyan Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP) was jointly implemented by the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). SDP carried out research and development activities to support sustainable improvements to the livelihoods of poor Kenyans through their participation in the dairy sub-sector. Learn more about Kenya’s unique dairy industry through a series of briefs produced by SDP.

SDP Policy Brief 1

SDP Policy Brief 2

SDP Policy Brief 3

SDP Policy Brief 4

SDP Policy Brief 5

SDP Policy Brief 6

SDP Policy Brief 7

SDP Policy Brief 8

SDP Policy Brief 9

SDP Policy Brief 10

SDP was led by the Ministry with primary funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). SDP worked with many collaborators, including government and regulatory bodies, the private sector and civil society organizations. By combining the research capacity of KARI and ILRI with the experience and networks of the Ministry, SDP provided high-quality and wide-ranging research information to support smallholder dairy farmers, market agents, stakeholders and policy-makers from 1997 to 2005.
For more information go to the SDP website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.