Florence Makokha did not have a head start in life: she was married off at an early age and was not able to finish her formal education. Today, Florence is not only one of the flourishing farmers in her village but she is also a proud farmer peer educator.
Her journey to success began when she started dairy cattle keeping with a single cow. Her herd has since grown to four cows (three cows and a calf).
In 2018, Florence, through the farmer group she works with, met staff from the CIAT forages team who introduced to the group different types of forages that would help improve their cows’ health and boost their milk production.
The ever-enthusiastic Florence speaks of the CIAT team and says, “They trained us about different types of grasses, which, when mixed together, the animal can eat and produce a lot of milk.”
She goes on to elaborate: “They told me you cannot depend on one grass type alone because … they have got different group proteins. When you’re feeding your animal, you cannot just depend on feeding with Napier grass because it is 70% good protein and it has a lot of water.”
Peris Walera, a livestock extension officer working in Kakamega County, Mumias East Sub-County, Kenya, covers the area that Florence lives in. She confirms having worked with Florence in the past year and says, “When it comes to feeding the cow, we normally advise farmers to plant a variety of fodder crops. We advise farmers, apart from Napier, to grow Brachiaria, sweet potato vines, Calliandra, Leucaena, and other fodder trees.”
She goes on to add: “This will actually cut down the cost of buying dairy meal, which is slightly expensive for the farmer’s pocket.”
Florence confirms that she has seen a substantial difference in her cows since she started following this advice. “I was milking, and then it was watery, because I was feeding them on Napier alone. However, when I got the training from the team about the different types of grasses when we mix them together, the animal can eat and produce a lot of milk and have a very good quality. So, from 8 liters, I expanded to 12 liters, but quality, not quantity.”
In addition, she has enough grass for her cows and some excess from her previous Napier field for sale.
Florence is a farmer peer educator for five groups in her area: Isongo (20 members), Isongo B (20 members), Upendo women’s group (32 members), Isongo CDDC (25 members), and Makunga Amua live group (30 members). She has carved out a small piece of land on which she has planted a demonstration plot for the different types of grass that she uses to educate the farmers in her village.
Recounting how timid and reserved Florence appeared to be when they first met, Peris can attest to the transformation the dairy cows have brought to Florence’s home. Not only is she successful in her dairy farming, but also she is growing maize and beans on her farm. In addition, there has been a noticeable transformation in her home environment as she has put up better structures in her compound, all her children are in school, and the family has enough food.
Florence, 47 years old, is also happy to confirm: “I have three children, Grace Anyango Msamba (19 years old) and Mercline Nandaha Msamba (17 years old), who are both in secondary school, and Annan Nanzala Msamba (9 years old). I now have money for school fees. I do not care. I am now a free woman; that is why you are seeing me healthy. I was not like this but, through this project of milk, I have changed.”
Peris feels accomplished in her work when she visits farmers such as Florence. “I have had so many best days, especially when farmers adopt what we teach them. I have had best days when I visit a farmer and I find that the animal is overproducing. I find the animal is healthy. I look at the records and feel like this farmer is making sales. The farmer is making money from this project and I feel so good. “
Florence is happy to have met Peris and the two women are now great friends:
“I know Peris. I have visited Peris even in her home, where she stays. I have visited Peris because of this grass and this cow of mine. They were not healthy, but nowadays they are very healthy.”