Nyandarua County Basic facts

Population: 596,268

Area :Square Km 3,245.3

Constituencies: Kinangop, Kipipiri, Ol-Kalou, Ol-Jorok, Ndaragwa

Major Towns: Ol-Kalou

Main Features: Horticulture, Fertile land.



Nyandarua County is located on the northwestern part of the Central Province, west of the Aberdare Ranges. It is characterised by high horticultural productivity involving the small-scale farms. The bordering counties are Laikipia to the North and North East, Nyeri and Murang’a to the East, Kiambu to the South, and Nakuru to the South West and West.

 Nyandarua County has a huge agricultural potential due to the adjacent Aberdare ranges, a rich water tower that supplies the County Rivers throughout the year. The county has had long years of challenges involving the accessibility but the new Dundori-Ol-Kalou-Njabini road has eased the problem.

The road passes through Ndundori, Tumaini, Ol Kalou, Wanjohi and Miharati in Nyandarua Central and Kipipiri districts, passing through Mawingu, Ndunyu Njeru and Engineer in North Kinangop. It connects to the old tarmac road that runs from Fly Over area on the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway at the Njabi-ini Trading Centre in South Kinagop.

 Economic Activities

Nyandarua Countty being wet most of the year produces plenty of vegetables such as Irish potatoes, cabbages, carrots and many others. The farmers however are embracing horticulture in flower farming for better returns from the farms. Daily farming is intense with most milk processors recruiting farmers for milk production.

Universities / Colleges



Milk Export & Import


Kenya exports substantial quantities of milk and milk products to the region. Intra-regional trade in dairy products in the EAC has continued to gain momentum and benefits the Kenyan dairy industry. The main products exported are long life milk and powder milk.

Dairy imports have dwindled over time as the country becomes increasingly more self- sufficient in milk and milk products. Specialised milk products are, however, imported mainly from New Zealand and EU.

The graph below shows the trends in monetary value of the dairy products exported and imported from and into Kenya respectively for the last few years;

                                     Dairy Imports and Exports


Dairy sector’s economic potential

Kenya’s dairy industry, the single largest livestock production sub-sector contributes 14 per cent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 3.5 per cent of the total GDP (Muriuki et al 2003).

The sector plays a key role in food security, employment creation, income generation, and enhances the livelihoods of dairy farmers, traders, processors and all participants engaged in the entire milk supply chain.

A report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries, shows the total dairy herd estimated at 3.4 million heads produces about 3.1 billion litres of milk annually.

Dairy production is dominated by smallholders who own about 98 per cent of the total dairy herd (Peeler and Omore 1997). Smallholder dairying households estimated to be over 1.5 million households, account for more than 85 per cent of the annual total milk production and 80 per cent of the 1.8 billion litres of milk marketed annually (MoL&FD 2003; Stall et al 2001). Over the years, significant changes in the traditional dairying have occurred resulting in a major shift towards market-oriented smallholder production. This has been possible mainly due to the suitable climatic conditions, significantly improved fodder technology and dairy cattle population, high urban population and incomes and the high consumption of milk and dairy products. In addition to the economic importance of milk, cattle manure is used to improve soil fertility resulting in increased pasture/fodder production on smallholder farms.


The country is generally self-sufficient in milk and dairy products. However, demand for milk and dairy products in developing countries is estimated to increase by 25 per cent by 2025 (Delgado et al 1999), mainly due to human population growth, further urbanisation, increased disposable income, greater diversity of food products to meet nutritional needs, and increased opportunities for domestic and external trade. Indeed, dairy imports in developing countries may reach 38.9 billion litres of milk equivalent by 2030 (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Dairy Federation (IDF) 2004). Fortunately, the country has the potential to increase milk production from the current 4.2 billion litres in 2009 to over 5.0 billion litres in 2014 (Cherono 2005). Milk production and market opportunities represent exciting challenges for smallholders in the country and if these potential productions and markets have to be exploited, it will require expansion of specialized dairy cattle population, intensification in terms of inputs, value addition of milk and dairy products, and good market linkages for milk sales and input acquisition.


The potato is an important crop in Nyandarua county. It is produced for income and domestic consumption. In the past, it was frustrating to farmers due to middlemen who exploited them by demanding that bags be extended to the top to almost double the normal or standard gunny bag. With an improved road network, buyers come from outside the area, allowing farmers to get better harvest and returns. With increased access to farmlands, farmers’ dues have improved.
The area has contributed to the improvement of potato prices after initiating a move that led to the standardisation of gunny bags used to package harvested crop.


Dairy Farming
Dairy farming remained the most lucrative enterprise in Nyandarua county earning farmers Sh131 million.
This was followed by the sale of meat. The District Livestock Production Officer, Mr Geoffrey Mwangi, said increased rainfall has helped increased milk production while better roads have made access to markets easier.
Milk prices have, however, fell drastically due to oversupply. Pig farmers remain forgotten due to the negative attitude among locals on pork consumption.
Mr Mwangi says milk farmers could earn more money if the collapsed Rural Dairy Development project which had installed 12 coolers in high milk producing area was revived.
“These brokers buy milk at low prices on the farms and we are challenging farmers to form groups that will enable them bargain for better prices. The groups could also have financial muscle to lobby for donor assistance in setting up coolers,” he says.
The dairy goat enterprise is also gaining popularity with 2,255 goats being reared in the district.
Goat milk was produced mainly for home consumption despite increased demand for the highly nutritious product that goes for Sh150 per litre.



Nyandarua County borders Laikipia County to the North, Nyeri and Muranga Counties to the East, Thika and Kiambu Counties to the South, and Nakuru County to the West. It covers an area of 3,304 km2 and has a population density of 145 per km2 and 104,401 households according to a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) (2001). The study was conducted in five out of six administrative Divisions (sites) of the County (Ndaragwa, Ol-Joro-Orok, Ol-Kalou, Kipipiri and North Kinangop). The soils in the upper highlands are imperfectly to well drained, deep to very deep, dark brown to very dark grayish brown, firm clay and silt loam clay. However, in the lower highlands, the soils are well drained, moderately to very deep, dark grayish brown to dark reddish brown, clay loam to clay with humic top soil.  

Nyandarua County produces the highest amount of milk due to its higher population of dairy cows compared with other regions in Central Kenya (MoL&FD 2007). However, dairy production potential for Nyandarua County is the least and there is need to improve the efficiency of dairy production and marketing for equitable distribution of income and hence poverty alleviation among households especially in the rural areas in line with the Vision 2030 (Government of Kenya (GOK) 2007). Recommendations for dairy development must therefore be based on the prevailing dairy farming circumstances, opportunities and challenges in the region. Detailed information on smallholder dairying for the region and within the cattle grazing systems (CGS) and the agro-ecological zones (AEZs) is therefore needed.


Livestock Production System, Genotypes and Feed Resources

The smallholder farming systems in this study fits in the mixed farming system which dominate agricultural

production in the East African highlands where crop-livestock integration is well established (Mclntire, Bourzat and Pingali, 1992).

 A major constraint to smallholder dairy cattle production in these farms as is in the tropics (Walshe et al., 1991) is the scarcity and poor quality of on-farm feed resource and the high cost of purchased concentrates. This is supported by the nutritive value results of most pasture and Napier grasses reported in this study, although within the range reported in some highlands of Kenya (Woulters, 1987).

Cattle fed solely on these forages are likely to have deficiency in N for microbial synthesis resulting in low intake, milk production and low performance of young stock. These results are in agreement with those reported by (Anindo and Potter, 1986; Gitau et al., 1994).

There is need for smallholder farmers in Nyandarua to match feed resource to the high genetic potential of cattle in this environment for sustainable dairy productivity (Preston, 1987).


Dairy cattle on the smallholder farms of Nyandarua subsist primarily on roughages, which are generally deficient in nutrients such as nitrogen and minerals. This work evaluated the available feed resource found on these farms and found that herbaceous legumes had the potential to improve N supply and milk production through supplementation resulting in higher income.

Uptake of forage legume 7 technology at the farm level can be achieved through farmer training and demonstrations using participatory rural approach. More research effort should be focused on developing and multiplication of cheaper forage legumes

suitable in various ecological zones to meet farmer demand for sustainable livestock productivity. Emphasis should be on legume seed production.



Major Production Challenges Faced By Farmers

The District Agricultural Officer for Nyandarua North, Mr J. K. Mutuma says high harvest losses due to inaccessible roads during wet weather that incidentally coincides with the peak production period of most horticultural produce.

_ Limited value addition due to lack of agro processing facilities in the district.

_ High farm input prices and field operation costs vis a vis the market prices.

_ Non-payment of pyrethrum dues to farmers. So far Nyandarua North farmers had been owed millions of shillings by Pyrethrum Board of Kenya. As a result the crop has been replaced or abandoned.

Poor road infrastructure

The poor state of the roads was evident from this study since only 30% of the households had access to good roads and hence could purchase inputs and market their farm produce throughout the year. During the rain seasons, most of the roads were impassable particularly in the upper highlands with firm clay and clay loam soils hence farmers were unable to sell their farm produce. Due to the poor road network and long distance to markets, cost of transportation was high rendering smallholder dairy production uncompetitive. 

Poor marketing

Most of the milk produced during the wet season was not marketed due to the poor road network and long distance to the markets. Since milk is highly perishable and farmers did not have the means to invest in milk cooling equipments, the high volumes of milk produced during the wet season were therefore associated with high-post harvest losses. Only about 35% total milk production was marketed through the formal sector which is considered by farmers to be more reliable in terms of milk prices and payments for milk delivered than the informal sector. This was mainly due to low milk processing capacity of the formal sector. As a result, the only alternative was for farmers to sell the surplus milk through the informal sector at lower prices. In addition, poor organization of milk collection, processing and marketing systems seriously undermined the potential of smallholder dairy producers to exploit urban markets. 

High costs and unavailability of inputs and support services

The increased costs of transportation and distribution systems due to the poor road network and long distance to markets resulted in high costs of inputs (supplements, animal drugs and vaccines, pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides) and their unavailability. In addition, the high costs of other services such as AI, animal health, electricity supply, extension and training, and credit had a negative impact on dairy development in the study area. High cost and unavailability of electricity in rural areas reduced investments especially in cold storage facilities and processing of the highly perishable goods such as milk and dairy products. The cost of credit, limited use of land as collateral for financing farming, and the limited number of banks in the rural areas are some of the factors that made it difficult for farmers to access credit from formal banking industry. 

Inadequate use of appropriate technologies

The high cost and inaccessibility of AI services caused about 60% of the households to use natural breeding methods and hence were unable to sustain genetic improvement. Natural breeding method resulted in genetically inferior animals due to inbreeding and the use of bulls of inferior genetic potential negatively affected performance of the offspring. On the other hand, since improved fodder production and conservation were low, the dairy stock relied mainly on inadequate and poor quality natural pastures with low levels of supplementation. The poor adaptability of common fodders and grasses due to low temperatures and frequent frost in upper highlands and frequent drought in lower highlands resulted in shortage of animal feeds and hence the farms were overstocked. The poor access to extension services, and the limited knowledge and skills on animal husbandry among the household heads due to the high levels of illiteracy (35%) resulted in poor performance of the dairy stock. Dairying was not competitive due to high costs of production and the use of inappropriate technologies, and hence poor performance of the sector. 

Limited value addition of milk and dairy products

Most of the milk from this area was marketed fresh through the informal sector (65%). Since fresh raw milk is highly perishable, milk losses along the informal value chain were high resulting from spillage and spoilage due to the poor road network, long distance to markets, inadequate refrigeration, and lack of milk collection due to glut in the wet season. Also, due to inadequate regulations, poor hygiene of milk at all levels of production and marketing was a common problem. Consumption of fresh milk was therefore associated with health risks since it is an excellent media for bacteria and has the potential to transfer zoonotic diseases to consumers. Failure to meet international food-safety and quality standards due to the domination of milk marketing by the informal sector hampered efforts to participate in regional and international markets resulting in low milk prices and hence sub-optimal dairy production in the study area. On the other hand, marketing of milk through the formal sector was limited due to the high costs of processing, value addition and increased shelf-live and packaging of milk and dairy products. 

Encroachment of the forests and water catchments by agricultural activities

The migration of farmers from the other overpopulated areas of Central Kenya into the study area has increased socio-economic activities resulting in expansion of human settlements, cultivation of land for crop/animal production, and deforestation particularly in the forested steep areas and water catchments. Furthermore, due to the high costs of fertilizers and the fact that manure collection and it use was not possible under the common extensive grazing systems among the households, poor soil fertility resulted in low fodder yields. If this trend continues unabated, environmental degradation, water pollution, poor conservation of fauna and flora and other associated environmental problems will be encountered in the near future. 

Opportunities to improve smallholder dairying
High demand for milk and dairy products

The study area produces the highest amount of milk due to larger population of dairy cattle than any other region in central Kenya. Due to the low consumer prices, fresh milk can be marketed among the populous poor urban dwellers and the milk deficit rural areas. On the other hand, the increases in disposable income, and changes in consumer preferences (tastes) among the urban dwellers has created a high domestic demand for high value food items such as milk and milk products creating market opportunities for indigenous production. In addition, due to the large regional markets which have arisen through regional integration (East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, African Growth Opportunity Act, World Trade Organization, African Caribbean and Pacific) and the preferential treatment provided to products from member countries there is great potential to improve smallholder dairy production and marketing in this area. Full exploitation of the existing and emerging milk and dairy product markets will broaden trade and income base for the area and the country in general. To effectively exploit these opportunities, the main challenges will be to improve quality and safety, increase efficiency and competitiveness in production and marketing of milk and dairy products. 

Expansion and improvement of road network

The existing road network needs to be improved and expanded to reduce cost of dairy production and hence increase marketed milk beyond the 65% level reported in the study area. A lot of emphasis in improvements and expansions of the road network should be directed towards upgrading of the feeder roads which link the farms to the milk collection centres. Upgrading of the feeder roads which are impassable during the rain season will significantly increase the collection and marketing of milk from farm.  Fast transportation and marketing is important due to the perishable nature of milk and its products. Also, transportation of inputs and other dairy production support services would benefit from expanded and improved road network. The road network can be improved and expanded not only by the central government but also by local communities through innovative partnerships including those with the private sector.

Marketing developments

The informal sector, controlling about 65% of the milk marketed dealt mainly with raw milk which was commonly used to make tea, coffee or as food snack and therefore did not require any processing. The higher preference by consumers for raw milk as compared to processed milk, provides an opportunity for the informal sector and hence the smallholder dairy production system to be competitive. The Lactoperoxidase System (LPS) recommended by Food and Agriculture Organization for preservation of raw milk is a safe method that can be used in situations where no cooling facility is available or affordable. However, policies to support use of LPS as a method of milk preservation have not been made.


The formal sector which is involved in milk processing, value-addition, increasing shelf-life, and packaging to ensure safety of milk and dairy products is mainly in the hands of public and private milk processors. The sector has the capacity to increase milk intake, processing and packaging to cope with large volumes of milk during the wet season. The high operational costs associated with the formal milk sector are therefore likely to decline as the processors operate at full capacity thus enhancing its efficiency and competitiveness both locally and internationally. However, the strategies for implementation must be participatory involving public and private sectors and relevant stakeholders. In addition, an enabling environment by the government through a legal and regulatory framework and strong institutions will be required to support the development of the sector. 

Improved access to support
services and technologies

The various farmer co-operatives, self-help groups, private processors, and other partners could be used to provide support services for dairy production in the study area. With improved and expanded road network, there is a great potential to increase access by farmers of essential dairy production services and technologies. Increased use of AI, extension, animal health, training, and credit services will enhance the use of modern farming inputs and appropriate production technologies and hence increase dairy productivity. The improved fodders adapted to the low temperatures and frequent frost bites need to be established in the upper highlands while the suitable fodders for dry areas need to be established in the lower highlands.


The supplementation of dairy stock must be practised judiciously depending on the basal diet offered and the desired level of production. Training of farmers and the other participants who are involved in milk value chain will have a positive impact on adoption of appropriate technologies hence higher dairy productivity. Greater participation of the community and private sector should be encouraged to supplement government efforts to enhance provision of the support services and technologies to farmers. However, better coordination and greater involvement of all key players must be emphasized while the management, accountability, and any investment must be done to the interest of the farmers. 

Sustainable use of natural resources

The country’s legislation prohibits grazing, human settlement, deforestation, and crop/ animal production in steep areas, water catchments and wet lands which needs to be enforced for sustainable use of natural resources. Establishment of fodder trees and legumes may improve the fertility status of the soil; hence increased biomass yield in addition to the provision of quality forage for dairy cattle. However, for sustainable protection of the environment and biodiversity conservation, use of natural resources and conservation of fauna and flora in these fragile environments should be done in collaboration and partnership with the relevant stakeholders.