A refrigerator, a pasteuriser, Milk ATM and labelling and sealing machines are some of the gadgets one finds at Umoja Youth Group premises in Kilifi County.
The gadgets are used in the various aspects of milk processing and sale, the trade the group of 15 members engages in.
“We started as a chama and steadily grew our activities. We were then absorbed by Equity Bank as part of their support to saving groups,” says Splyntah Buluku, the chairman.
Initially, the group used to buy raw milk and supply to customers using bicycles but Kenya Dairy Board warned them against this terming the activity illegal since the law prohibits sale of raw milk.
“We wrote a letter to Pwani University seeking assistance and we were absorbed into their incubation centre where we learnt how to add value to milk,” he says.
As they say, the rest is history as Umoja group now processes various products that include mala, ghee, yoghurt and fresh milk under the brand name Nanas and Zowerani.
“We process up to 600 litres of milk daily, the quantity rises when demand is high or when there are orders,” he says.
A 500ml packet of mala goes for Sh70, 500ml yoghurt at Sh80, 250ml yoghurt at Sh40 and 150ml yoghurt at Sh30.
“For fresh pasteurised milk, we sell at Sh80 per litre. We have now acquired a milk ATM and we are soon starting to sell for as little as Sh10,” says Buluku.
He notes that in their products, they ensure health and taste is blended together to give customers the best experience ever.
“We are leveraging on market by zeroing in on the price and package, our competitive edge is that our customers get quality products at an affordable cost,” says the official, noting for yoghurt, they make different varieties that include strawberry.
They sell their products through word of mouth, referrals and on social media sites like Facebook and WhatsApp and on Mkulima Young.
“It is a nice experience selling products online since you can get big orders. But some customers are jokers, they order for fun and don’t buy.”
Before Covid-19, they used sell up to 200 litres of milk daily but currently they average 70 litres.
“Our main customers were students of Pwani University, staff and the residents of Kibaoni in Kilifi but with the university closed, the market shrunk. But we are now selling to residents.”
Colnelius Chiro, a member and a dairy technician at Umoja Youth Group, says through the group, he has gotten employment, has been able to further his career and extension services to farmers who supply them with milk.
Buluku says their main challenge is long process of acquiring certification and lack of enough funds to establish powerful distribution channels.
“We want to engage farmers and bring them on board for them to be able to give us quality milk for processing. Our aim is to make sure that all milk in Kilifi undergoes processing before used.”
Noel Kasololo, a project officer at Ustadi Foundation, says he recommends the group’s products since they are of high quality.