The role of research in a pro-poor dairy policy shifts in Kenya

The role of research in a pro-poor dairy policy shift in Kenya
New case study highlights lessons learned from Kenya's highly successful Smallholder Dairy Project.
The BBC ‘Small Is Beautiful’ series recently showcased Kenya’s Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP), which won four prestigious international awards during its eight years of operation. Researchers from ILRI and the Overseas Development Institute have now documented and analysed the circumstances and key factors that contributed to the overall success of the Project. This case study document will be particularly valuable to individuals and organizations engaged in policy processes or seeking to influence pro-poor policy changes. Some of the key success factors cited in the report are:

  • Use of evidence. Wide-ranging, highly robust, and relevant evidence was instrumental in influencing policy change in Kenya’s dairy sector. ILRI and the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) collaborated on this project with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development; the inputs of both highly reputable research institutions added to the credibility of the evidence.


  • Highly collaborative approach. The strong collaborative approach taken by this Project was a major factor in its success in changing policy. Much of this was underpinned by years of previous collaboration between the implementing organizations. Innovative links between the project and advocacy-focused civil society organizations (CSOs) also played a key role. Although research organizations and CSOs differ in mandates and operational modes, effective collaboration between them was achieved by developing and maintaining a shared vision. Linking with CSOs to advocate policy change was crucial to the success of this Project. These links helped the Project open new channels for influencing key individuals and groups and provided the Project with access to grassroots organizations.
  • Citizen voice and representation. The Project staff took advantage of the changing political context in Kenya, including the role of civil society and increased influence of citizens. Project staff took every opportunity to participate in meetings to communicate evidence. Indeed, the years the Project spent regularly feeding research-based information and evidence to other organizations  and stakeholders in the develoment of Kenya’s dairy industry proved highly important. Armed with credible facts, farmers were empowered to speak at a Dairy Policy Forum held at the close of the Project, in April 2005. By holding this Forum, the Project was able to gain support of politicians and other key officials.

The full report, ‘Informal Traders Lock Horns with the Formal Milk Industry: The Role of Research in Pro-Poor Dairy Policy Shift in Kenya,’ can be downloaded here.

Listen to Kenya’s Dairy Story

Small is Beautiful – The Kenya Dairy Story
Kenyans love their milk. Most of the 3 billion litres consumed there each year is produced by smallholders with a couple of cows, and sold house-to-house by thousands of street hawkers and doorstep milkmen. But this whole milk business was under threat. In the third edition of the One Planet series (on BBC World Service) which is sharing small business success, Susie Emmett discovers how the farmers and traders fought back to keep the milk flowing.

Listen to a recording of the BBC World Service broadcast produced by WRENmedia. (See Note below)

Note: The latest numbers

Some of the numbers quoted in this BBC World Service broadcast ‘Small is beautiful’ have been obtained from much earlier estimates. These figures, however, grossly understate the true size and extent of Kenya’s milk sector. SDP has provided recalculated figures, which more accurately reflect the picture in Kenya today.

1. Smallholder dairy farms recalculates to be 1.8 million (up from 800,000)
The estimated 800,000 smallholder farms has been widely cited for many years, during which time Kenya’s population has grown significantly. SDP recalculates the number of smallholders to be 1.8 million.

2. Milk hawkers recalculated to be 39,650 (up from 30,000)

SDP recalculates the number of small milk vendors in Kenya to be 39,650.

3. Number of dairy cattle recalculated to be 6.7 million (up from 3 million)
There are concerns about the reliability of the official cattle figures for Kenya; no livestock census has been conducted for decades and the methods used to estimate cattle numbers are imprecise. A conservative estimate of the size of the national dairy herd using detailed SDP survey data suggests that there are about 6.7 million dairy cattle (2.7 million high grade and 4 million crosses) owned by 1.8 million rural smallholder farms mainly in the Kenyan Highlands. This projected cattle population is more than twice the officially reported figure of 3 million for the national herds.

4. Total milk produced recalculated to be 4 billion litres per annum (up from 3 billion)
Based on SDP’s recalculated cattle projections above, SDP recalculates total milk production in the rural highlands to be an estimated 4 billion litres per annum.

5. Annual consumption of milk recalculated to be 145 litres per person (up from 100 litres)
SDP recalculates annual milk consumption by Kenyans to be 145 litres per person, making Kenyans amongst the highest milk consumers in the developing world. The rural areas have an estimated population of about 14.5 million people. Assuming that the estimated 9.6 million people living in the urban areas mainly depend on milk from the high potential areas, and that 13 percent of production goes to calf feed or spoilage loss, milk availability from the highlands was estimated to be about 145 litres per person per year. Previously, milk consumption in Central and Rift Valley provinces, which are important milk production areas, has been estimated to be between 144 and 152 litres per person per year.

Source: SDP Policy Brief No.10.

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