Monthly Archives: November 2011
Written by Edwin Namasaka
This article First apeared on West fm Website
When one mentions Chwele market in Bungoma County just kilometres from Mt. Elgon, Kimillili and Bungoma South Districts, what rings in their minds is agriculture which is the backbone of the region’s economy.
When you visit the market, among the well known farmers is Mr. Amos Webale Wekesa, a farmer from Londo Village commonly known to locals as Mukulima which is a Swahili word for farmer. Webale introduces us to some farmers and brokers who trade in horticulture, whereby he appreciates the role they play when it comes to marketing their produce despite them getting big profits compared to farmers who do a lot of work yet earn little.
During our visit to the busy agricultural market, everyone seems to be going on with their daily business as usual, mingling with them freely, and sharing with us their experiences and why they depend on farming.The five feet tall farmer in his late 20’s , wearing a white hat ,a blue t-shirt with muddy wellington boots offers to take us to his farm where he practices horticulture farming dealing mainly in various varieties of hybrid red pepper, water melons , coccumbers and also cabbages.His farm has red soil which he says is good for horticulture and which has made many people acquire small pieces of land for farming around his neighbourhood.
Webale ventured into farming way back in 2007 after quitting his job in Nairobi as a sales assistant at an import and export shop.‘‘My salary wasn’t enough to sustain me in the city as a sales assistant and also I had escaped death twice after robbers raided our shop. One day I told my boss who was Hindu about my resignation, of which he couldn’t believe since we had a good working relationship, He added, my boss gave me a good send off package and that’s how my long story in farming began, ’’ explains Webale.
The young entrepreneur is quick to point out that he has no regrets about quitting his job for farming since he can provide for himself and his young family the basics needs.“In my house I never buy any food since I grow different kinds of crops and also keep chicken, may be when my family needs fish or meat,” he said.
What I realised as we move around in his one acre piece of land is that he mainly relies on hybrid seeds from various seed companies and he explains that they produce a lot and also they are of high quality when hence good to be taken to the market.
As we continue with the interview, on the other side of the homestead I see Webala’s wife covering his maize, green grams (ndengu) and beans using a polythene paper since the clouds had started showing signs of rainfall.Webale who has planted red pepper on a quater acre piece of land explains that it only takes 75 days before harvesting of which for his case he harvests four bags every week each selling at Sh1,500 at Chwele market while also supplying to major supermarkets in the region. Before he started farming while in Nairobi, Webale who has turned out to be a role model in Bungoma West District says he used to visit Nairobi International Trade Fair Show yearly and that made him to give it a try and up to date he has a story for the community.
Upon returning home, Webale planted hybrid cabbages which in return gave him Ksh40,000 profit and this gave the locals a reason to nickname him Mukulima. And as he continued with his farming, lady luck smiled at him whereby he got a rare opportunity to be trained at the Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre, him being among four farmers from every district in Western region to have been selected.
During his stint at Mabanga, he trained in entrepreneurship, farm management, developing in life through Agri -business, avocado and watermelon management and also planting banana as a business.On his farm, he has planted different types of hybrid water melon namely , Sukari , sugar baby and he hopes when it will be ready for harvesting the market will also be readily available.He is well known to brokers and farmers for his quality admiral sweet pepper and also carlifonia wonder which are available in most of the Agro-shops.
He advises farmers to use Diamonium Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) or compost manure while sowing their seeds into drills with little soil on top then covering the nursery with dry grass or banana leaves to avoid loss of moisture. For 14 days, he explains, one needs to water the nursery bed every morning and evening using water can and after 35 days the seeds will have germinated.While trans-planting in the evening, Webale tells farmers to ensure they space their plant 45 centimetres by 60 within rows using a small tea spoon full of DAP in each hole then covering the plant with soil firmly.He says the only challenge is fighting with diseases like early and late blight not forgetting pests like red spider mites, leaf miners and cut worms. He adds that what makes his produce to stand out among the rest is him using fruit and flower stimulant after 14 days then the red pepper will be ready for harvesting.
Webale urges farmers to grow the crop since you can harvest for six months if well maintained by use of Calcium Ammonium fertilizer (CAN) after every four weeks.He tells young men who finish school not hassle daily looking for well paying jobs which are hard to get but instead urges them to get into farming by equipping themselves with modern farming techniques.
His main goal come next year is own a green house and also buy a dairy cow as he expands his interests in farming.The young farmer, who took a risk of quitting his job as a shop assistant to venture into farming is all smiles as he harvests the fresh green red pepper outside his house. He says ‘’ Its’ paying, I will continue working hard till I reach the destination.’’
I have to admit that I never knew that people could keep rabbits for commercial purposes.
Back in my place rabbit keeping was done by young boys and I remember I did this when in class six. It was just for fun and we kept them as pets. Fast forward to 2011, it’s the old men who keep rabbits this time not as pets but for business purposes.
I had a chance to go to a farmer’s field day in Kiambu the other day and I was so surprised to see how the rabbit business is booming. Meat rabbit farming is one of the fastest growing new industries in Kiambu County. While its long term size will never rival that of our traditional meat industries, it is providing a useful source of income diversification for a number of people in regional and rural areas where farm incomes have plummeted in recent years.
The best part about this business is that the production costs are very minimal and the rabbits multiply at a fast rate.
In Kiambu, the farmers sell one mature breeder rabbit for Ksh. 3000, the one for meat is sold at 250-300/KG which is a good price. This means that a serious farmer could fetch around 25,000 from this business every month.
The basics on Rabbit keeping is as follows:
In general, the type of housing is dependent upon the climate, location and size of the rabbitry. The optimum temperature in a rabbit shed is around 10 – 25 0C. Effective ventilation is required to control extremes of temperature and also to remove ammonia. Housing is a critical issue for rabbit health. Poor ventilation will result in irritation to the respiratory tract and susceptibility to infection from bacteria. Heat stress will cause major rabbit mortalities and reproductive failure.
Natural ventilation systems can use wind and animal heat to move air. Natural ventilation is low cost, the disadvantages being lack of control over air movement, inability to lower the inside temperature of the rabbitry below that outside, and over-ventilation. Natural ventilation can be provided with a high gable roof, a Ventilation ridge vent, and open sides with flaps that can be opened or closed depending on the atmospheric requirements. In high wind areas, a stub wall or wind baffle outside the open sided sheds is needed to reduce wind velocity. Mechanical ventilation systems are used in environmentally controlled buildings, using fans to provide required airflow. The advantage of this system is the ability to control rate of airflow for effective removal of moisture, heat and ammonia; disadvantages being the high initial and operating cost and the need for backup systems in case of power failure. Evaporative cooling systems may be used in a hot, dry climate. A water sprinkling system on the roof of the rabbit shed will help to reduce high temperatures.
2. Space requirements
Sufficient room is required for caged rabbits to move around, to feed and drink without difficulty. The minimum legal standards for different classes of rabbits are given below:
Doe and litter (5 weeks) – 0.56 sq.m (total area)
Doe and litter (8 weeks)-0.74 sq.m (total area)
Rabbits (5-12 weeks) – 0.07 sq.m (per rabbit)
Rabbits (12 weeks or more) – 0.18 sq.m (per rabbit)
Adult does and bucks for breeding –0.56 sq. m
Cage height (>12 weeks) 45cm
If the floor of the cage is of wire mesh material it should be of woven or flat construction. The square mesh of the floor should not exceed 19 x 19 mm for adults and 13 x 13 mm for kittens.
The optimum for rectangular mesh is 50 x 13 mm. The thickness of the wire mesh should not be less than 2.5 mm diameter (12 gauge). Cage arrangement can vary depending on the size of the enterprise. Multiple deck configurations require a faeces diverter.
3. Feeders and watering equipment
Good feeding and watering equipment will supply feed and water in hygienic condition and will avoid causing discomfort or stress to the rabbits. A feed hopper in a cage should have a sufficiently big opening and should be large enough to feed all the rabbits in the cage at the same time. An automatic watering system can be installed. The drinking nipples of the watering system should be at optimum height from the floor of the cage, around 10 cm from the floor of the cage and they should not project more than 2.5 cm into the cage. It is always advisable to have a backup system to ensure that rabbits have access to water in case of a failure of an automated system.
4. Floor of the shed
Earthen floor is preferred by some breeders as it absorbs urine and thereby reduces ammonia accumulation in the shed. Earthen floors combined with compost worms under the cages require less cleaning than concrete floors thereby saving a lot of labour. Mucking out is only required about 3 times a year. Concrete flooring needs regular cleaning and a high quality epoxy coating is desirable to completely seal the pores of the concrete.
The average daily requirement of pelleted feed for rabbits of different ages is given below:
- Does 100g
- Pregnant does 160g
- Lactating does 350g
Oaten chaff can be fed at the rate of 20 g per day per adult rabbit.
Pellets should be formulated to give basic nutrient requirements for rabbits.
For those who want to start up this business you can contact new vision Rabbit breeders Self help Group Located at Ndumberi in Kiambu County
Their contacts are
Phone: 0722644139 or 0721174722
Welcome to my Blog.
A lot has been said about the recent hunger in the horn of Africa. We saw the images of children starving to death,read stories of families losing all their wealth.
Many people in other parts of the world would thing that everybody in the country starving to death and the only thing they can associate with us are the images of the starving. It’s a fact we have been through the most difficult period this year, but despite all these we have had success stories too.
This blog is therefore meant to document success stories in Kenyan Agribusiness sector.
The first success story in my blog is about the youth using ICT to improve dairy farming.The iCow mobile-phone app, invented by an organic farmer outside of Nairobi, Kenya, is just one example of the country’s growing high-tech entrepreneurial culture. read about the story here