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,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. “They enlightened me on the nutrient efficiency of the rabbit urine in crop growing.”
In a day, 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.
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.
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.
“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, mono-cropping 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 Organization (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 neutralist 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.