Small-scale traders drive growth of Kenya’s milk industry

Over 80 per cent of Kenya’s milk output is produced by close to 800,000 smallholder dairy farmers in a sector that also has 350,000 smallholder milk vendors. In recent years, Kenya’s dairy sector has experienced a major growth in milk production as a result of various programs that have streamlined the industry and given support to dairy farmers and the country’s milk value chain that ties producers to sellers to consumers.

One such initiative is a Smallholder Dairy Project, which worked with the country’s dairy farmers between 1997 and 2005. The project was implemented by the Government of Kenya, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with other partners.

In this 7-minute film, produced by WRENmedia, Margaret Lukuyu, who was part of ILRI’s team in the project (she now works with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute), talks about how small-scale milk vendors in Kenya have improved the ways that they handle milk, which has resulted in higher profits for them. She says the sellers have also increased their milk supply to consumers in an industry that contributes about 4 percent of total national gross domestic product (GDP).

One of the key successes of the project was the licensing of smallholder milk traders and farmers in the ‘informal milk sector’ into various registered groups, such as the Kenya Smallholder Milk Traders Association, which has empowered both farmers and traders to lobby for needed policy changes. This project played a key role in reforming Kenya’s national dairy policy and increased support for the country’s massive ‘informal milk sector’, which trades in unpasteurized (‘raw’) milk.

The film also highlights the experiences of Teresa Kamau, a business developer who trained farmers and traders in business management skills as part of the project, and Gabriel Karanja, a milk trader who has seen increased returns as a result of his sales of clean and higher-quality milk.


For her contribution to the dairy sector in Kenya through the Smallholder Dairy project, Margaret Lukuyu was one of sixty outstanding women agricultural scientists from 10 African countries who received a 2010 fellowship from an AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) program in July. Read about the fellowships here.

For more information about the Smallholder Dairy Project, visit