A rabbit farmer is taking the rearing of the animals to new heights with his creativity.
Humphrey Wangila of Mkuyuni village in Bumula, Bungoma County in Kenya is not your ordinary rabbit farmer who relies on rearing and selling the animals whose white meat is considered a delicacy in city hotels and restaurants. He is adding value from what many would describe as child’s play considering that rearing rabbits in rural areas is considered a preserve of boys.
Judging by the number of farmers who call at Wangila’s farm to ask him questions and even buy urine and droppings, it is evident that he has hit on a formula that others would like to emulate in their own farms.
The father of five sells rabbit urine and droppings to farmers who have come to learn about the value of the waste from the animals.
"I started it just as a pass-time with two rabbits which I got from Action for Rural Health and Development, an organisation working within Bungoma County.
"The information I got about rabbits from the same organisation made me take the bold step and I am not regretting the decision I took."
He had learnt that just a few drops of urine can be used as nutrients for crops especially for top dressing. But when he stumbled on this knowledge, he did not keep it to himself. He introduced his neighbours to it, attracting the attention of many farmers from the area who have now started buying the urine to benefit from its efficacy.
From a simple structure where he keeps the rabbits, Wangila has devised a system of trapping the urine and the dung which he then collects and stores.
During the interview, he had in his store about 25 litres of urine which he would sell to farmers for Sh1,000 (about $11) per litre and was expecting to earn Sh25,000 ($290) as the demand for the urine has been rising.
Wangila has also experimented on his tree seedlings and has become a role model in the village that is known for sugar cane and maize growing.
He is one of the over 300 farmers who have diversified their activities after getting agricultural skills, farm inputs and credit to expand farming to increase productivity and address the serious issue of food insecurity and rural poverty.
While others like his neighbour, Agnes Magero, a widow and mother of eight,are increasing acreage under maize cultivation, Wangila is now making arrangements to increase the number of his animals to around 100 in the next few weeks because of the benefits accruing from the animals. For him, when other farmers increase the acreage under crop, it means more demand for the rabbit urine he collects, all of which adds up to a virtuous circle in which he and the other farmers benefit. However, there are farmers who have increase the land under cultivation although they are yet to adopt their neighbour’s knowledge on soil fertility.
Hezbon Itumbo, another farmer in Teso, now has every reason to smile as he watches his six acres of land blooming with a healthy maize crop. Last year he only managed to cultivate one acre but this year he was able to add five more acres and expects to produce over 100 bags.
"I have come to learn that we have been sitting on wealth here all these years because now I am expecting a bumper harvest which will change fortunes for me.
"Most of us have been complaining about poverty even though we have been blessed with fertile land that has just been lying idle. The farm inputs which I have applied have changed everything for me and other farmers in this area," he said.
Mr Joseph Atsali who heads Rural Action said through the programme which has seen the organisation spend about Sh1.3 million in farm inputs given to farmers, about 100 acres are being cultivated with more expected in coming seasons.
"The biggest challenge facing our farmers in rural areas is that while land is readily available most of them cannot afford the high cost of farm inputs and end up cultivating just small portions which is not even enough for their sustenance". One of those inputs is fertilizer, which costs about Sh90 (slightly a dollar which is Sh86). An acre requires 50 kilos.
"There is great potential and as a country, empowering rural farmers can greatly help in addressing food security as well as creating wealth," Mr Atsali said.
He said most of the farmers are able to repay the loans they borrow in one season because of better yields from improved farming methods that include use of proper seeds and fertiliser.
Besides selling urine, Wangila is also involved in a joint venture to buy bulls for ploughing the land. In Western Kenya, as in many rural areas, the cost of mechanized agriculture is prohibitive for many families. But by attaching a plough to two bulls, they can till their land faster than by hoeing manually. And because not every farmer can afford to buy his own bulls, Wangila and other in Bumula have come together to buy bulls that they can share for a small fee. That way, ploughing the land becomes cheaper for each farmer. (Mazera Ndurya, The Nation, Kenya)
Rabbit manure is one of the best manures for organic gardens! It will improvesoil structure and also the life cycle of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Rabbits are very good at producing an excellent source of manure which is rich in many nutrients and very simple to use. One doe and her offspring will produce over one ton of manure in a year.
Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and otherminerals, lots of micro-nutrients, plus many other beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt.
Rabbit manure is higher in nitrogen than sheep, goat, pig, chicken, cow or horse manure. Plants need nitrogen to produce a lush green growth. Nitrogen helps plants grow greener and stronger helping the plant reach its full potential.
Rabbit manure is also higher in phosphorus than the other manures. It helps with the transformation of solar energy to chemical energy which in turn helps with proper plant growth. Phosphorus also helps plants to withstand stress. Phosphorus in the soil encourages more and bigger blossoms helping with flowering and fruiting also great for root growth.
Potassium in rabbit manure helps with fruit quality and reduction of disease plants will not grow without it. Plants use potassium as an enzyme to produce proteins and sugars and to control water content.
Rabbit manure is one of the few fertilizers that will not burn your plants when added directly to the garden and can be safely used on food plants.