Rabbit urine brings more income to Kenyan farmers
22 October 2014, 08:20
Nakuru - Rabbit rearing in Kenya is rapidly gaining a new meaning in the agricultural sector.
For many years, rabbits were kept in the households as pets or for meat, but their importance have significantly changed. They are now providers of cheap and cost efficient fertilizer.
Farmers across the country are taking up rabbit rearing as an added incentive to their farming activities, with the interest of minimizing cost of input while maximizing the benefits.
For John Kiplagat, a small-scale farmer in Kuresoi, Nakuru County of the Rift Valley region, rabbit urine has, for last one year, been his fertilizer that he collects from his 61 rabbits.
"I had not taken seriously the use of rabbit urine in growing potatoes, maize, beans or the fodder crops until officers from the ministry of agriculture visited me. I only used the urine on vegetables," Kiplagat told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday. "They enlightened me on the nutrient efficiency of the rabbit urine in crop growing."
In a day, he says, he collects an average of 16 liters of the urine, some of which he sells to a company that makes organic rabbit fertilizer while the rest he uses on his crops.
His rabbit cage consists of a wire mesh on the bottom with corrugated plastic sheets underneath. The sheets are connected to a gutter that drains the urine into a collection bucket.
Rearing of the rabbits, he says, has doubled his income earnings. While he cuts the cost of buying the inorganic fertilizer, he makes money from selling the rabbits to the butchers and at the same time exchange the urine for money. "For each kilogramm of the rabbit I charge 4.6 U.S. dollars and a liter of the urine I sell at 4 dollars. This fetches me more money unlike solely trading the rabbits to the butchers," the farmer noted.
He sells his urine to the Kenya Com Rabbit Consortium Limited (KCRC) which converts it into the organic fertilizer.
KCRC Coordinating Director Agnes Sorim said once processed into the organic fertilizer called Rabbit's Urine Extra Organic Liquid Manure, it can serve multiple purposes including being used as folia feed, soil conditioner and insecticide during cultivation of vegetables and maize.
A litre of the processed urine goes for 7.47 dollars, which Sorim says is environmental-friendly and affordable to the rural small-scale farmers.
"Since last year when we ventured into manufacturing the organic fertilizer, more and more farmers from all parts of the country are rearing the rabbits to sell the urine to us. They also come back to buy the organic fertilizer for use in their farms," she says.
The organization has established cottage industries in regions of Western, Rift Valley, Central, and Nyanza where the organic rabbit fertilizer is manufactured and supplied to retailers countrywide.
Rabbit urine, according to the country's Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needed for healthy crop growth.
"Before the fertilizer is ready for use, it goes through a fine making process taking one and a half months. We usually guide the farmers on how to use it. To use it as foliar feed for an acre, a farmer needs to mix 200 milliliters of the fertilizer with 20 litres of water," says Sorim.
She argues that the Rabbit's Urine Extra Organic Liquid Manure improves the fertility of the soil by mending its structure, texture, water-holding capacity and its humus content.
Also see: GALLERY: Rabbit keeping
Leah Mungara, a crop production specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture says farmers are encouraged to use fertilizer proved to be enhancing crop production.
"We only encourage farmers to use what has been scientifically proven to be effective and efficient in crop production. We recognize the efforts made by farmers to reduce the cost of input but whatever the steps they take, they must be leading to high yields," she says.
Several studies done by various local and international food production stakeholders identify repeated use of incorrect fertilizer, monocropping and lack of adoption of the agro- technologies as some of the core reasons for reduced harvests among the small-scale farmers.
For instance, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) reckons the continued use of the acidic fertilizers in soils with high PH levels as a worrying trend threatening food security in the sub-Saharan Africa.
In Kenya, farmers are now required to submit a sample of soil from their farms to government licensed institutions for testing, to determine whether an acidic, alkalinity or neutralising should be applied. "It is important that farmers seek advice and guidance from agricultural officers so that whatever fertilizer is applied during planting or growing of crops does not create a conducive environment for pest infestation or disease outbreak," Mungara says.
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