Former Makueni MP Stephen Kyonda has turned the arid land of Makueni, Kathonzweni Town, filled with scanty bushes and thorny trees, into a land of milk.
The little-known former MP is behind the flourishing dairy sector in his town. Kyonda’s background before politics includes working in several NGOs and development agencies. He also taught in various schools in Makueni and Machakos.
Despite being a legislator earning huge chunks of a steady salary, Stephen Kyonda followed his passions to become a dairy farmer. In the 1992 general elections, he surprised his supporters when he withdrew his name from the ballot to pursue his newfound interest.
“After I left parliament, I focused on my passion; agribusiness. I had established a small-scale dairy enterprise long before going to parliament,” he mentioned.
Kyonda is a staunch believer in efficiently running a dairy business. To achieve this, he switched his indigenous cattle breeds to hybrid ones.
He also adopted better rainwater harvesting methods, constructed modern structures, and cultivated high-quality fodder grass.
“Dairy farming is a unique enterprise in that you keep getting income when you are seated at home. The enterprise is also rewarding healthwise and emotionally, especially to those who love nature,” Kyonda’s wife, Angeline, stated.
Kyonda’s influence extends beyond his former position as a lawmaker in Makueni County. Through his successful dairy farming enterprise, he has significantly impacted the lives of residents in the area and has become a valuable member of the community.
He and a group of several farmers have worked as advisors to the Makueni County government on how they can improve the dairy industry.
The county government has implemented most of their recommendations, such as promoting the use of hybrid cows, educating farmers on fodder farming and establishing cooling plans to extend milk shelf life.
Kyonda is the chairman of the Kathonzweni Dairy Cooperative society. His contributions have immensely impacted the dairy value chain in Makueni. But like any other job, he has also had his rough patches.
During the early stages of his dairy business, Mr Kyonda faced a surplus of unsold milk in his store as the market demand failed to match the supply. One time, one of his clients refused to take his morning delivery.
Kyonda realized the solution to his marketing problem was establishing a cooperative society. He shared the idea with other farmers, who were receptive to it.
Today, the Makueni farmer is the patron of Kathonzweni Dairy Coop, which hosts more than 800 farmers in and around the area. The cooperative was established in 2003. He is also one of over 1200 farmers who rear hybrid dairy cows.
Kyonda’s decision to keep hybrid dairy cattle has positively impacted milk production in the area. As a result, the Makueni County government has repeatedly recognized and praised his cooperative for being the best-managed cooperative in the region.
Fodder farming has been steadily replacing the cultivation of maize and peas in the region, supporting dairy farming ventures.
“The little rain we receive around Kathonzweni barely lasts a month. But it is enough to grow fodder grasses to maturity,” Peter Mang’eng’e, a fodder farmer in the area, resolved.
Kyonda says that he believes there is still a lot of untapped potential in milk production despite the stability brought about by fodder farming in Kathonzweni.
“This region has the potential of being the biggest producer of milk in Ukambani, especially with constant training on animal husbandry and good agricultural practices,” he concluded.
“The marketing challenge notwithstanding, we pay not less than a million shillings to milk farmers monthly. The money has helped develop the region,” Kyonda revealed.