Spatiotemporal characteristics of smallholder milk production under changing climate: A case of Nandi County, Kenya

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Josephine Kirui
Joshua Ngaina
Nzioka John Muthama
Gachuiri Charles Karuku


Smallholder farmer; milk production; climate change; fodder availability


Milk production in Kenya is predominantly smallholder and dependent on rainfall. The study assesses spatiotemporal characteristics of smallholder milk production in Nandi County under changing climate. Climate (Rainfall and temperature), fodder availability (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and soil moisture content) and milk production data were used. Methods included trend analysis, spatial plots, correlation and multi-regression analysis. Monthly NDVI and soil moisture content were high between April and November with seasonal analysis indicating highest/lowest June-August (JJA)/December-February (DJF) values. Percentage change (%Δ) for NDVI was 6.0% (DJF), 1.96% (March-May, MAM), 2.13% (JJA), 4.16% (September-November, SON) and (2.53% (Annual). Seasonal and annual %Δ for soil moisture content ranged 7.2-17.1% at 0-10cm level and 8.1-23.7% at 10-40 level. Trend analysis of milk production showed positive change from 2007 to 2016 and highest/lowest in December/April with seasonal %Δ of up to 186% (MAM), 183% (JJA), 202% (SON), 214% (DJF) and 204% (Annual). Majority of household (HH) owned between 1 and 20 acres of land with only 0.5 to 2 acres allocated to dairy farming while those allocating less than 1 acre practiced zero grazing. On average, HH had 2 lactating cows throughout the year with majority of dairy farmers (98.6%) owning improved cow breeds. Amount of milk per HH supplied to the farmer organization varied between 2.3 litres and 3.8 litres with computed daily average milk produced per HH being 18.8 litres. Active milk suppliers were highest/lowest in December/April whereas daily average milk production per HH between 2010 and 2016 was highest/lowest in January (23.7 litres)/August (15.6 litres). Lowest/highest correlation coefficients were found in precipitation/minimum temperature. Multi-regression analysis indicated that precipitation had significant contribution to dairy productivity. Given the sensitivity of milk production to climate and fodder availability, adequate adaptation and mitigation measures are necessary in order to sustainably enhance milk production.