KENYA – In a recent report from the World Bank, Kenya’s expansive dairy sector is identified as a key battleground in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

While offering promising opportunities, the sector carries significant risks that may go undetected, as outlined by the World Bank’s analysis of the country’s dairy industry.

With an annual production of 652.4 million liters of milk, Kenya’s dairy sector plays a crucial role in the nation’s economy.

However, the dominance of small-scale, often unregulated producers poses challenges, particularly regarding antibiotic residue in food.

The World Health Organization (WHO) first emphasized the global threat of antimicrobial resistance in November 2021, urging urgent, multi-sectoral action to ensure the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals related to food safety and security by 2030.

Meanwhile, Egerton University, recognizing the urgent need for action, has taken a leading role in developing innovative and cost-effective solutions to detect and combat antibiotic residue in milk at the farm level.

Additionally, Teresia Ndung’u, Director for Livestock Production in Nyandarua County and a doctoral student at Egerton University, is at the forefront of this groundbreaking initiative.

Teresia’s journey began during her involvement in the Quality Based Milk Payment Systems project, where antibiotic residues emerged as a significant concern.

Her subsequent discovery of a reagent capable of detecting antibiotic resistance in micro-organisms marked a pivotal moment in the quest to identify and mitigate antibiotic residues in milk.

The unique challenge faced by small-scale farmers, constituting approximately 80% of Kenya’s milk producers, prompted Teresia to focus on creating a cost-effective solution.

Her research aims to provide a simple and affordable testing method, empowering farmers and processors to identify antibiotic residues at the farm level and prevent their entry into the value chain of animal products.

Teresia’s work is made possible through a scholarship supported by World Bank International Development Association (IDA) funding for the Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University.

The financial support has allowed her to address the complex nature of micro-organisms and develop practical solutions that align with global efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance.

While acknowledging the existence of solutions on the market, Teresia emphasized the prohibitive cost for ordinary small-scale farmers.

Her focus is on scaling up her smallholder-based solution, aiming to reach the mass market and contribute significantly to the overall drive to improve food safety.

As Teresia progresses toward graduation, she envisioned patenting her solution, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle against antimicrobial resistance and ensuring the safety of dairy products not only in Kenya but across East Africa and beyond.

The World Bank’s report underscores the critical role of such initiatives in addressing the complex challenge of antimicrobial resistance within the dairy industry.