Sweat trickles down Yovensiah Mochama’s face as she walks toward a rabbit hutch, carrying a bundle of succulent plants. She opens the window of the hutch and pushes the feed inside.
When they see the feed, the excited rabbits crowd near the wire mesh wall of the hutch, looking eager and hungry.
She says, “This is their favourite feed…. I enjoy watching them eating.”
Ms. Mochama lives in Mochenwa village in western Kenya. She says many farmers in her area keep rabbits because the animals provide delicious meat for their families. But Ms. Mochama rears rabbits mainly to harvest their urine, which she uses on her farm as a pesticide and a fertilizer.
She says it’s easy to harvest rabbit urine because the animals have a habit of urinating in the same place every time.
So Ms. Mochama placed a plastic sheet on the floor in the corner of the hutch where the rabbits urinate. The plastic sheet slants toward a pipe that drains the urine into a five-litre jerry can under the hutch.
In a week, Ms. Mochama can harvest up to three litres of urine from her eight rabbits.
After collecting the urine, she mixes it with maize starch and molasses and leaves it to ferment for about three weeks in a container. Then she dilutes one litre of the mixture with 20 litres of water. And then it is ready for spraying, either as a pesticide or as a fertilizer.
Ms. Mochama grows a variety of vegetables, including kale, black nightshade, spider flower, and onions. She applies the urine mixture directly onto the leaves and stems of the vegetables using a hand pump, knapsack sprayer, or broom.
According to Ms. Mochama, the fermented rabbit urine spray helps manage insects and other pests, including aphids, moths, leaf miners, caterpillars, and mites.
Alex Migika is the director of livestock in Nyamira County. Mr. Migika says that, apart from the value of rabbit urine as a pesticide, rabbit farming is gaining popularity in the region because farmers can make rabbit urine fertilizer that contains nitrogen-rich compounds such as ammonia and urea.
Agnes Kemuma is a farmer from the nearby village of Nyabogoye who started rearing rabbits in 2017. She also grows kale, black nightshade, and maize, and uses rabbit urine as a pesticide and fertilizer in her vegetable garden.
Ms. Kemuma says her vegetables are now doing very well because she can control pests more affordably than buying chemical pesticides from shops.
Ms. Mochama says more and more farmers in her village have started keeping rabbits not only for their delicious meat, but also to use the urine as a pesticide or fertilizer.
She adds that many farmers have bought rabbits from her. Some have even reserved unborn rabbits so that they can begin raising the animals themselves.
She explains, “No farmer who has tried rabbit urine to control pests regrets it. It saves more than five times the cost of conventional pesticides.”
This story was originally published in July 2018.