A rabbit’s gestation period is a month- 30 days- and it can give birth up to four times a year depending on how the farmer takes care of them. Rabbits are always ready for fertilization. One rabbit can give birth to between 5 to 10 young ones.
Some experts say that they could give birth to even 18 young ones at once depending on the breed and the care given to them.
Figure this: Justus Irungu has 8 does that give birth to 10 young ones 4 times in year. This equals to 320 young ones in a year.
“One leveret- a rabbits young one – that could be a month old costs Shillings 1,000. A grown up buck or doe costs Shillings 3,000. Prices however range depending on the breed that one rears. For example the Flemish Giant and the Angolan White which are the larger breeds could go for Shillings 3,000 while the smaller ones could go for Shillings 2, 000,” explains Justus.
If he sells them when they are one month old, he gets Shillings 320,000 in a year. If he sells them when they are mature for Shillings 2,000 each, he gets Shillings 620,000 and if he sells them for Shillings 3,000 each, he gets a staggering amount of Shillings 960,000. Rabbit keeping can simply make one a millionaire in a year.
Currently, Justus has 50 rabbits and he uses close to Shillings 4,000 to take care of them each month.
“Presently, I keep 8 does and 2 bucks which mate to give me the number I currently have. One rabbit could cost one up to Shillings 200 per month. They also feed on black jack which is in plenty in the farm,” he adds.
The rabbit project which is the most recent one for Kiamumu Organic Farmers – is picking up well.
“We recently wrote a proposal to the World Bank through the National Resource Water management for funding. This was remarkable as we were got funding to the tunes of Shillings 350,000. This money was to start a rabbit keeping project and I am glad that it is doing extremely well. Each member of KOF has at least three rabbits as we speak,” states Justus.
He gives credit to the extension officers who taught them the business of rabbit-keeping to ensure that they reap maximum benefits. “They taught us how to take good care of them, how to cook the meat properly and how to look for market. They sometime also feed on hay or even dry and withered crops. I am glad that all we have learnt is bearing fruit as we have been invited severally to visit other farmers and teach them some of the farming techniques we use as KOF,” adds Justus.
He says that rabbit keeping can be challenging especially when attacked by diseases.
The farmers in Kiamumu are versatile and apart from the recently discovered gold mine – rabbit keeping – they also engage in Bee keeping, Coffee farming, macadamia, cattle keeping as well as crop farming. Farming is what keeps them going.
Organic farming which is slowly being embraced by farmers all over as a safer type of farming as it is less toxic has been in the fore for these farmers and thus the name Kiamumu Organic Farmers (KOF).
KOF started in 1997 and was registered with the Social services and the Gender Ministry. In 2000, they got interested to learn about organic farming and were even awarded certificates recognizing them as fully fledged members of the organic farmers association.
In early 2,000, each member of Kiamumu had a kitchen garden which they say was self sufficient even as they led average lives as they could only practice subsistence farming. Considering also that the sizes of their farms are diminutive, they were still glad that they could feed from their kitchen gardens which had embraced the organic farming technology rather than buy vegetables.
KOF began a revolving fund an idea they thought would be noble and which would ensure that their members are financially stable. A decade later, the revolving fund has turned into a Savings and Credit Cooperative Society- SACCO -. Still, every end of the month, the members who are currently 30 contribute Shillings 200 or even more depending on how much one can afford.
KOF Chairman Justus Irungu says that the SACCO has uplifted the standards of living for its members and they are able to get loans at a 10% interest rate which also depends on how much money one has saved. “At the end of the year the farmers are usually a happy lot as they get dividends and our assets currently could be well over Shillings 300, 000,” says Justus.
Some of the farmers stated categorically that their children could not have been educated if they did not get loans from KOF.
“The KOF has helped me a lot. I had no resources to call my own before joining them. I was able to apply for a loan worth Shillings 20,000 which enabled me to buy a cow. I am now able to sell milk to my neighbours and thus sustain my family. I have also been able to pay school fees for my children and educated them to University level. One is at Kenyatta University pursuing Engineering while another one is about to complete her studies at the Kenya polytechnic,” states Joyce Wairimu who is also the Assistant Chairperson of KOF.
Jane Njeri who is also the treasurer of the group says that KOF has everything to do with her life which she says picked up well after joining the group.
“The fact that I use natural manure that costs vitally nothing and that my farming has improved tremendously makes me happy. I was given a loan of Shillings 3,000 which enabled me to start a chicken rearing business. I sold them and made a profit of Shillings 50,000. I used the money to build a brick house and I am definitely grateful for that,” She says.
She later decided to keep a few chicken just for subsistence purposes. She sells eggs and does bananas business as well. Jane was also one of the few farmers in Central Kenya who embraced fish-farming. She however, stopped the farming after losses and thought it was not worth the effort.
“Fish farming was good but it was also a lot of work. I started this business in 2006 after listening to some programme on radio and also after doing some research. My boys helped me to construct the pond and I initially started with 460 fingerlings. At that time one fingerling cost Shillings 5/=. After harvesting, I would sell one fish in terms of how much it weighed.1 Kilogramme could go for up to Shillings 160 and I had many customers. I stopped it because the fingerlings had become too expensive and it was not profitable anymore,” she narrated.
KOF seeks to empower their community through the various projects that they have initiated. They tell me that by giving back to society and ensuring that more people are empowered and are not left to wallow in dearth is their long term vision.
Justus says that as their crops and harvests continued to improve, they decided that they would help the less fortunate in their community and especially the orphans. At that time OAIC gave the group a grant of Shillings 279,000. The group then gave every member shillings 3,000 and they all started small scale businesses, while others continued farming. This was sometime in 2004 and to date they have assisted over 80 orphans through organic farming. Justus says that twice a year they meet all the orphans and see how they are faring on apart from the day to day support they accord to the guardians. They also started a goat project for the orphans.
“When we started the goat project for the orphans, each farmer was advised to buy a nanny – a milk-producing goat – by then it cost Shillings 1500/=. A decade later one cannot get a goat for less that Shillings 10,000. This was intentional as we saw it as a sustainable way of ensuring that the KOF are able to take care of the orphans even during the hard times,” says Justus.
“We bought 40 goats and handed them over to the guardians that were taking care of the orphans. This is how it was meant to work; when a goat gives birth, we would take the doeling – a female kid – and give it to another household that supports an orphan. This was to continue until all households taking care of the orphans had goats. Sometimes a goat could give birth to twins and this would be the best news for us,” added Justus.
Sometime in 2007 they decided to register the orphans and their guardians with the government. They were trained and empowered on how best they could take care of the orphans.
The group members are grateful to OAIC’s Bishop Simwa whom they say taught them skills on managing small-scale businesses which some refer to as agri-business where their produce was not just for consumption but the lessons taught by Simwa that ensured that they are able to make money from their produce.
KOF members say that by helping their community they are helping themselves too. In this regard, they have been able to give rise to other groups that empower the Kiamumu community differently.
The PILOHAS –People Living With HIV/AIDS is one such group under the KOF which has now been registered under the National Aids Control Council- NACC – which was able to fund them in order to sensitize people on HIV/AIDS. The funding enabled the group to print t-shirts, organize workshops and seminars for sensitization purpose. They say it was a successful project that enabled people to understand what messages that helped to deal with the ignorance that was so rampant at the time. The sensitization was done for one and a half years and they say it was successful.
It is also worthwhile to note that the group has given birth to five different groups and they are hopeful that they will continue to empower their community through them. OAIC gave the group a cheque of Shillings 15,000 to top up to their fund.
Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.