Three Kenyan cooperative dairy farmers participated in a week-long, eye-opening learning exchange visit to India earlier this month to learn from the country’s top dairy cooperative, thanks to support from NCBA CLUSA.
Organized by New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (New KCC), one of Kenya’s major dairy processors, the trip was designed to educate Kenyan dairy farmers on the benefits of bringing small scale farmers together in cooperative businesses to produce and deliver high-quality milk and value-added products to strengthen the dairy sector in Kenya. Participants observed the successes of Amul, a cooperative dairy company founded in the 1950s that NCBA CLUSA helped enter the pasteurized milk market.
Amul, owned today by 3.6 million milk producer members of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, has served as the primary growth engine for India being the world’s leading dairy producer since 1970. It has also grown to become India’s largest food brand.
As part of NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Cooperative Development Program (CDP), the project supported the attendance of a supervisory committee member from Lelchego Cooperative Society, along with a member and manager from Kabiyet Cooperative Society in Nandi County, Kenya.
Accompanied by NCBA CLUSA Country Coordinator Lydia Omamo the group visited three Amul facilities in Gujarat to learn about the operations (facility management, diversification of products, branding and marketing), successes and challenges for the dairy sector in India, and benefits and services received by cooperative members. For example, Amul’s cooperative owners have access to subsidized inputs and services like cattle feed, veterinary and artificial insemination services, medical coverage and pension programs. Because Amul provides these valuable benefits and services, its members are encouraged to sell more product to their cooperative, addressing the issue of side selling that can be a major challenge for developing cooperatives.
On the management and governance side, participants learned about the important relationship between the cooperative boards and Amul’s management. As the owners of the business, the farmers’ voices are taken seriously. Nicholas Some, a member of Kabiyet Cooperative Society, noted that “efficient governance and management systems ensures efficient checks and balances that leads to effective member satisfaction, member retention, and member loyalty.”
Kenyan participants also noted the prominent role of women in board and other leadership positions in the Indian dairy cooperatives at all levels. Silpher Koech, a supervisory committee member with Lelchego Cooperative Society, said “empowering women in cooperative matters is a sure way of ensuring high production, quality and sustainability of the cooperative.”
Now back from their trip, NCBA CLUSA’s CDP Kenya project is co-organizing activities with trip participants to effectively share their learning with their cooperatives. For example, they will meet with the Nandi County Dairy Cooperative Union to share insights on women’s participation in decision making, leadership and management positions. They’ll also brainstorm concrete ways to get women more involved in their dairy cooperatives at all levels—from production and value addition to training, milk delivery, board leadership and management.
Trip participants are also keen to work with their cooperatives on providing the services they observed in India, including extension services, medical coverage and pension programs. With member equity being a key element of NCBA CLUSA’s technical assistance through the CDP project, NCBA CLUSA will work with cooperatives to see how building their capital through member equity plans can help them provide these types of services.
NCBA CLUSA’s five-year USAID CDP project—Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE)—operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Peru and Guatemala. Core activities to help improve the enabling environment include reviewing legal and regulatory frameworks for cooperatives, building capacity of local support organizations to provide quality services to cooperatives, and providing tailored technical assistance to cooperatives to improve business performance.