Kenya: Woman farmer earns large rewards from small animals (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| March 3, 2014

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Lucy Ndu’gu is not a typical farmer. The 35-year-old mother of three attended university and studied for a degree in business management. But she wanted to become a successful farmer. Then, in 2009, a friend introduced her to rabbits.

Ms. Ndu’gu says that educated Kenyans regard farming as a dirty job. But while most young graduates look for paid employment in offices, she chose farming.

She bought one female breeding rabbit for 8000 shillings ($92 US). The rabbit was expensive because it was an exotic breed. Her rabbit was already pregnant and soon gave birth to eight young. This was the start of Ms. Ndu’gu’s rabbit colony.

She says, “We started with a few rabbits on an experimental basis. Months later, this … turned into a business venture when we discovered the huge potential of untapped business.”

Ms. Ndu’gu’s colony grew to 700 rabbits on a 500 square metre plot. She started supplying rabbit meat to local supermarkets and hotels around Nairobi, and reinvested her profits in the farm, branching out into poultry. She raises improved local and exotic breeds of chickens, as well as turkeys and guinea fowl. She even found space to grow soft fruits such as strawberries.

Ms. Ndu’gu has introduced other small-scale farmers to the business side of rabbit and poultry farming. She sells her hybrid rabbits to other farmers, non-governmental organizations, youth groups and any other interested party.

Her farm, Sigona Rabbit and Poultry Farm, trains individuals and groups to use modern methods of raising and marketing rabbits and poultry. The trainings demonstrate how to construct modern rabbit huts and poultry cages.

Sigona Farm is located west of Nairobi on the main highway to Nakuru. It employs a dozen workers, who look after the chickens and rabbits, and collect eggs from the coops.

Ms. Ndu’gu supplies local customers with 50 kilograms of rabbit meat a day, on top of the 100 kilograms she sells to supermarkets. The demand is too high for the farm to meet. She says her biggest challenges are the frequent power cuts and the high cost of poultry feeds and veterinary drugs.

Five years after buying her first rabbit, Ms. Ndu’gu now earns around 100,000 Kenyan shillings a month ($1,160 US) from her farm. She is invited to talk about poultry farming on radio programs, and has published a book on the essentials of raising rabbits and poultry.

Ms. Ndu’gu urges young farmers to embrace rabbits and poultry as a commercial business because it does not require much space. She says, “One can sell the chickens, eggs, meat − even the droppings from both poultry and rabbits are good fertilizer for vegetable farming.”

Farm Radio Weekly published Notes to broadcasters on raising small livestock in July, 2013 (FRW #254: