Impact evaluation of Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme in Kenya

Publication Details

Bonilla, J, McCarthy, N, Mugatha, S, Rai, N, Coombes, A and Brubaker, J, 2018. Impact evaluation of the Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme in Kenya, 3ie Impact Evaluation Report 73. New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).

Link to Source
Juan Bonilla, Nancy McCarthy, Simon Mugatha, Nisha Rai, Andrea Coombes and Josh Brubaker
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
Sub-Saharan Africa (includes East and West Africa)
Agriculture and Rural Development
Agricultural Reform, Agricultural Extension, Agro-Industry & Marketing, Livestock, Agricultural Research
Gender analysis
Agricultural Reform, Agricultural Extension, Agro-Industry & Marketing, Livestock, Agricultural Research
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
Evaluation design
Propensity Score Matching (PSM), Mixed Methods
3ie Series Report
3ie Funding Window
Agricultural Innovation Thematic Window


The programme seeks to increase the income and welfare of smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya by building capacity and enhancing their organisational, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills.  


The dairy sector in Kenya is dominated by smallholder farmers who rely on livestock for income and food security.  The Smallholder Dairy Commercialisation Programme (SDCP) was designed to reach 24,000 smallholder dairy farmers in nine counties. SDCP provides training to dairy farmers and aims to enhance milk productivity and reduce production costs.

Information on the impact of SDCP can provide useful insights for the design of other agricultural extension programmes for smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Research questions

  • Does SDCP improve the wellbeing of dairy farmers through improved animal management, increased production and productivity, improved efficiency and an increase in incomes and food security?
  • Are there differences in programme participation by gender of the farmer? Does the programme have differential effects by gender of the farmer?
  • How does the process by which SDCP is implemented influence the effectiveness of the programme? Given this process, how do contextual factors affect programme success?


Intervention design

Firstly, the programme provided dairy groups training in organisational, managerial, and enterprising skills.

Capacity building of dairy groups was further supplemented with investment grants to build livestock capacity, and management and market information systems to foster increased smallholder involvement in dairy value chains. The programme also targeted individual households, providing trainings, field days and demonstrations to enhance productivity and reduce production costs.  Lastly, SDCP strengthened relationships with market intermediaries for small-scale milk producers by improving road infrastructure and conducting additional trainings on milk handling practices and value addition opportunities. 


Theory of change

The project identifies three main areas where barriers to improving dairy income operate: dairy group activities, household production and market intermediaries. It hypothesises that increasing net dairy income for smallholder farmers can occur through four primary channels: increasing milk production, increasing the prices received for milk sold, decreasing the costs of producing milk and decreasing the transactions costs of participation in input and output markets.  This in turn will lead to food security and increased participation by women and marginalised communities as these populations make up a majority of the dairy farming sector demographic.

Evaluation design

The evaluation uses a quasi-experimental approach using propensity square matching. 

To capture key time-invariant characteristics as well as retrospective information on dairy farming, the study included a short filter questionnaire at the beginning of the household survey for accurate matching of households in the treatment group with households in the comparison area. 

The sample of 2,500 consists of 1,250 SDCP beneficiaries and 1,250 comparison farmers. Key information is collected through a survey and the causal chain, including the underlying assumptions are mapped out.

The study also uses qualitative data to explain the quantitative findings and understand the implementation of the programme by comparing accounts of local government officials with that of dairy farmers using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. The study also investigates the differential impacts of the programme by gender- qualitatively, through gender-specific focus groups; and quantitatively, through information collected from female farmers.


Main findings

Overall, the results suggest that the SDCP was successful in increasing milk production. SDCP farmers show a higher level of milk production for animals at calving as well as total production calculated as the sum of milk sold, consumed in the household, and lost. The impact on quantity of milk sold and prices received by smallholders was modest but positive, in comparison to the control group SDCP farmers sold milk at a price 43 per cent higher. There was an 8 per cent increase in farmers using practices such as zero-grazing, as well as a 13 per cent increase in the use of concentrate feeds and a 5 per cent increase in better feeding practices. Additionally, researchers observed a 12 per cent increase in the use of artificial insemination. Despite no statistically significant changes were seen in access to animal health centres, there was a 25 per cent increase in access to vaccinations.

Regarding intra-household bargaining power, SDCP households are 9 percentage points more likely to have a woman managing the cash from the sale of fresh milk relative to non-SDCP households. Also, women in SDCP households are 11 percentage points more likely to make decisions around opting for artificial insemination services.  Lastly, household beneficiaries are more likely to have women making decisions regarding the use of different services such as use of anthelmintic, tick control, vaccination and curative treatments.

From the qualitative exercise, authors gather useful insights regarding programme implementation. FGDs indicated the existence of some staffing bottlenecks among the government-provided services. Also, there were challenges with linking farmers and dairy groups to various service providers and farmers did not always have the knowledge to negotiate terms to their benefit.

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