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Margaret Ruguru’s journey from dairy farmer to yoghurt mogul

Margaret Ruguru is a proud farmer who reflects on her bold decision to venture into milk processing.

She began her journey into dairy farming more than 20 years ago when marketing her produce was not a challenge.

Ruguru was working at one of the dairy cooperatives in Murang’a, which gave her a market niche for her products.

“I started with one cow and over time the herd grew,” she explains.

She took up dairy farming as a means of earning extra income. But things took a turn for the worse when she lost her job in 2007.

Her dairy farm is in Gatanga, Murang’a County, a few kilometres from Thika town.

Ruguru remembers selling milk locally, especially after one of her buyers, a hotel, cancelled her contract.

“The management claimed they had a lot of cows calving, so the milk problem was solved,” says Ruguru.

She would try to sell up to 200 litres of milk a day. Such a large quantity without a market is a significant loss for a farmer.

Ruguru says that because of the volume, farmers who cannot sell their milk sometimes feed it to domestic animals.

Through persistence, she sought help from the Murang’a County Livestock Department, which eventually provided her with assistance.

“An officer who later became my mentor connected me with Mariira Agricultural Show Farm in Murang’a, a facility that offers training in dairy production, including milk processing,” says Ruguru.

Mariira Farm organises agricultural shows and trade fairs that create a platform for farmers to interact with key industry players, experts, agro-input companies, processors, manufacturers and other stakeholders.

In 2016, Ruguru learned how to make yoghurt with a group of about 50 farmers through a collaboration with the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

Government projects that aim to empower farmers tend to benefit those organised in groups or cooperatives.

Now, eight years later, Ruguru and her husband own Sky Blue Farmlands, a yoghurt processing company that has helped them to reduce the losses they were incurring from selling raw milk.

They produce two flavours of probiotic yoghurt, strawberry and vanilla, under their brand, Highlands.

Their business operates on a 100 by 80-metre plot of land, which houses a milk processing plant, cows, improved indigenous chickens, fish and fodder crops.

Her market is primarily wholesale, including supermarkets and food and beverage outlets. Ruguru uses platforms such as agricultural fairs to promote her products.

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