The Inspiring Innovator behind Kenya’s Baraka Farm
Twenty-three years ago, Jos Creemers started out as a volunteer on Baraka Farm in Eldoret, Kenya, assigned there through the British government’s Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO). He came to Baraka as the farm manager and quickly took on the task of converting it into a productive and self-sufficient operation that would benefit the Lewa Children’s Home and Kipkeino School. The complex is an initiative and vision of Phyllis Keino who today is the CEO of the Lewa Children’s Home –Trust the organization which oversees all these entities. A combination of Jos’s first-rate management, relentless dedication, and astute adaptations to conditions on the farm and in the region has helped Jos not only reach those goals, but also turn Baraka Farm into one of the most fruitful and imitated farms in the country.
When Jos arrived in Kenya, Baraka had been organized principally as a simple corn/wheat farm. Nonetheless, the breakup of the regional dairy monopoly in the mid-nineties presented the opportunity for smaller farms like Baraka to expand into that market for the first time in many years, and in typical Dutch fashion, he decided to start rainwater harvesting in big reservoirs and drain the surrounding farmland through a system of intensive canals furthermore he convert all farm operations to focus on livestock and corn production. Today Baraka boasts over 150 dairy cows incl. young stock, providing all the delicious milk, yoghurt and cheese for both the Lewa Children’s Home and the Kipkeino School – with about 90% of output leftover for sale at the Kenyan market. This is in addition to keeping and raising sheep and beef cows, as well as tending to a vegetable garden, cultivating a budding forestry program and the continuing corn crop, which is also far more than enough to meet all the needs of the children’s home and school. Jos used a multi-functional approach when developing the Baraka farm next to livestock and crop farming the farm processes its own milk into the best, renowned Dutch GOUDA cheese, in the Kenyan market. The cheese can be bought directly next door in the Baraka farm shop which sells various types of cheeses. Next to making cheese, local and international tourist are encouraged to come for a Farm-stay at Kokwet Guesthouse a country style farmhouse with beautiful gardening in a very quiet and peaceful environment. While the farm is also used to facilitate a practical training program of 5 days for small-holder farmers. Since its beginnings as a dairy farm, Baraka has more than quadrupled its milk production. With this astounding success came a new challenge. In 2000 the Jos started to process part of its own milk on a low key using mainly appropriate technology eventually the high demand of the quality cheese made Jos to build a new modern up to standard facility for on farm milk processing which opened its doors in late 2014. The cheese is now known in the local market as Baraka Farmhouse Cheese. After using 10% of the produce to supply the Lewa Children’s Home, the farm sells 90% of its produce and dairy throughout the country – from fermented milk to yogurt to its country-renowned gouda cheese In order to meet the growing demands for their products and to take advantage of the growth opportunities that their success has allowed them, it has come time for the Baraka Farm to expand is dairy herd again. The Practical Dairy Training Center at the Baraka Farm, which started just two years ago as an outreach program designed to help other local farmers in the community, is beginning to revolutionize the dairy industry in East Africa. Jos Creemers with the support of Phyllis Keino, owner of the Baraka Farm, decided to share his experiences and knowledge gained during the development of the farm, which includes an extensive dairy operation. Today they offer a five-day, full-time training program with based on modules particular for the Kenyan small holder farmer on feeding, management of fodder crops, housing, calf-rearing, and milking technique and hygiene, farm record keeping and various health modules. Already, more then 350 farm operators, managers, herdsman and trainers of trainers have participated in the training.