Machakos County Women Representative Susan Musyoka has challenged women from the county to embrace novel agri-business concepts in order to improve their livelihoods. Dr. Musyoka singled out rabbit farming, which has been identified as viable business enterprise in the region, as an emerging area with better prospects compared to conventional farming activities.
The Legislator was speaking in Machakos town, Wednesday when she opened a business incubation seminar for 50 women farmers who are currently rearing rabbits. The seminar participants, who were drawn from across the county, are beneficiaries of the In-country training programme jointly mounted by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“This is a befitting platform for the women led agribusiness initiatives that will impart high level knowledge and requisite skills on rabbit farming to our women,” noted Dr. Musyoka.
Machakos county government’s Director of Livestock Production, Ms. Damaris Mativo agreed that rabbit farming had not been taken seriously in the county and urged the locals to change their attitudes and embrace the practice. Ms. Mativo added that the county had experienced and dedicated extension and veterinary officers who were on standby to help farmers with technical support in rabbit keeping.
JICA representative at the event, Mr. Samuel Kibe reported that over 1, 400 women have undertaken the annual training that started in 1994. The aim of the incubation seminar, Mr. Kibe reiterated, was to inspire livelihood transformation through poverty alleviation and wealth creation. Mr. Kibe who is the agency’s overseer for the training urged Machakos women to, “implement the gained knowledge in order to socio-economically empower themselves.”
Despite its potential, rabbit farming has not been commercially embraced in Kenya, with a number of communities still considering it an activity for boys while adults who keep rabbits often do so as a hobby. A number of people are keeping the African breeds whose adaptive and genetic traits are not as beneficial compared to the commercial breeds.
According to Dr. Jane Gathenya, JKUAT’s coordinator of the incubation programme, rabbit farming is a viable business enterprise in Machakos County as revealed in a 2013 economic activity survey of the region.
Dr. Gathenya reckons that rabbit farming is not only profitable compared to other farm animals, the overhead costs of starting and running the enterprise are equally low.
“Besides fast maturation, rabbits take minimum space to rear, with a number of attendant by-products like meat, fur, skin, and manure from droppings and urine,” says Dr. Gathenya.
According to the county’s directorate of livestock production, there are nearly 12, 880 rabbits in Machakos, most of which are kept by young boys. To ensure farmers have ready market for the rabbits, JKUAT is working closely with Rabbit Republic Ltd, an established Kenyan company that buys rabbit and the byproducts from farmers.
The university has also partnered with other agencies like the Women Enterprise Fund from where the incubated farmers can get venture capital.