BY JOSEPH MUCHIRI / SMART HARVEST
A few years ago, there was a craze on rabbit urine.
Every rabbit farmer in town claimed how they had found a ‘minefield’ in rabbit urine. Some fell into scams but others hit some ‘jackpot’ with this liquid fertiliser.
One such farmer who says he got it right and is making a kill is Peter Kagereki. He runs Kagereki Rabbits Ranch in Mbuinjeru village, Embu County.
He packages rabbit urine (foliar fertiliser) which he brands as Ecoboost Foliar Fertiliser.
He has a found a ready market from individual farmers and institutions with farms. “I started selling foliar fertiliser three years ago after my rabbit business flopped,” he says. Kagereki, who has a degree in marketing from Chuka University, started rearing rabbits in 2006 while in Form One as a hobby.
Back then from three rabbits, Kagereki’s project expanded the bunch to hundreds of rabbits, which he would sell to neighbours and friends. After university, he decided to transform the rabbit project into an agribusiness.
“Things were good for a while because I never lacked buyers for my rabbits. But there was a time the market was flooded with rabbits and that is how the prices started to dip. The price of a mature doe and buck went really low, it became a non viable business idea,” he recalls.
He lost hundreds of rabbits, because he had to sell them at throw away prices. To avoid past mistakes, on his new venture, he decided to do research. Kagereki hit the blogosphere digging information on other ways he could earn from rabbits.
He landed a gold mine of information on YouTube on how to make foliar fertiliser from rabbit’s urine. That is how he started religiously collecting urine from his 60 remaining rabbits. He has constructed rabbit houses in such a way that urine is collected and drained into a filling container.
Apart from the urine, the other raw material he needs for the mixture is molasses and corn starch. “I mix it in a certain ratio. I learnt how to mix the ratios on YouTube. After mixing, I store the mixture in a tank for three weeks during which aerobic reaction takes place. This is basically fermentation which ensures good bacteria remain intact,” he says.
To roll out the project, he used his savings to buy the equipment needed such as weighing machines, containers, bottles and a motorcycle for transporting the fertiliser locally. “Foliar fertiliser is organic and thus environmentally friendly. It produces ammonia which acts as a repellent to pests,” he says.
He says the fertiliser is absorbed by a plant faster as it enters directly through pores unlike others that enter through roots.
How did he market the fertiliser? “At first, I used the liquid on my farm and other farmers who visited were impressed by what they were seeing. The crops were healthy and my yields were good,” he recalls. Having seen the evidence on my farm, slowly more farmers started making their orders.
At the moment, demand is so solid, he buys urine from other rabbit farmers at Sh50 per litre. He has 10 farmers who supply him about 1,000 litres of rabbit urine per month.
Quality is a key factor, he says. “I always sieve the urine I buy to remove impurities. I also test it to ensure it is pure,” he says. He sells the fertiliser through direct marketing to schools and individual farmers.
His clientele base is as far as Nyahururu, Nakuru and Nairobi. He regularly attends agricultural exhibitions like the annual ASK shows, where he sources for more clients.
When things become better, Kagereki plans to employ 100 youths to act as distributors. He sells a litre of the fertiliser at Sh200. When that quantity is mixed with 50 litres of water, it can be used to spray an acre of crops. He also earns from selling mature rabbits at between Sh1,000 for slaughter and Sh2,500 for breeding.
“Those for slaughter are cheaper as I skin them and sell the skin to shoes or bag manufacturing companies,” he says. The farm has 200 hybrid rabbits after he recently sold some 100. He rears Flemish Giant, Chinchilla, Giant Checkered, New Zealand White, Dutch Rabbits and California White among other breeds. Though things are looking up for this farmer, he faces hurdles.
One is serious water shortage due to the prevailing drought. To beat this, the farmer has adopted ingenious water conservation methods that he learnt from the Internet. “I do not let water from the bathroom go into waste. I collect and filters it using sand and charcoal.
The resultant water is de-soaped which can be used to irrigate crops.” He also covers his crops using polythene papers (mulching) to conserve water.