Experts' take on topical issues affecting farming, agribusiness

Rabbits in an urban farm in Nairobi's Makadara Estate in this past photo. Before starting a rabbit farm, it is important to determine the market for your rabbits because sometimes it can be unstable. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Rabbit farming has great potential as an agribusiness.
  • Rabbits can be kept in any part of the country for as long as they are housed properly, fed well and protected from predators. 
  • The cost of production majorly relies on the system employed for production. 
  • They feed on pellets, which can be supplemented with greens and other edible herbs, which provide them vitamins. Offer them enough clean water to ease digestion. 

I’m planning to keep rabbits

I'm Edward, an aspiring agripreneur interested in rearing rabbits. I have three questions:
i) Which is the best training centre for rabbit breeding practices?
ii) Where can one acquire excellent breeding rabbits and for how much?
iii) It is said the demand exceeds supply for rabbit meat. How exactly can I get a market for my rabbits?

 
Rabbit farming has great potential as an agribusiness. To source breeding stock, ensure the seller provides you with the records of the animal and observe the history of the rabbit then settle on those with good genes.

Breeding stock can be acquired from local breeders or commercial breeders such as Ngong National Rabbit Breeding and Training Centre. 

In Kenya, the most popular breeds are California White and New Zealand White due to their fast-growth rates. Chinchilla is also preferred for meat because of its large body. 

Before starting the farm, it is important to determine the market for your rabbits because at times it can be unstable. 

Although contract farming is the best way out, especially with private companies, due diligence is advised. 
Some of these private companies buy from farmers and offer training on rabbit production. 

There are various places to market your rabbit meat such as health facilities, restaurants, butcheries, schools (for projects), individual buyers and hospitals. For individual buyers, try farmer Wachira who is based in Nairobi on 0720826713. 

Rabbits can be kept in any part of the country for as long as they are housed properly, fed well and protected from predators. 

The cost of production majorly relies on the system employed for production. 

They feed on pellets, which can be supplemented with greens and other edible herbs, which provide them vitamins. Offer them enough clean water to ease digestion. 

Tailored courses for producer groups can also be organised with Egerton University’s Department of Animal Science.

Maureen N. Ogega, Department of Animal Science, Egerton University.

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Growing arrowroots from seedlings to quality crop 

I have a quarter acre and I want to plant arrowroots. Where can I get quality seedlings and share a guide to arrowroot farming?

Kanyuru Justus, Eldoret

Arrowroots do well in areas that receive adequate rainfall throughout the year. They thrive where there is enough moisture in the soil for their normal growth and development.

Two main varieties are well-defined, that is Dasheen and Eddoe. The suckers go for Sh10 each and you can obtain them from other farmers.

Arrowroots require well-drained loamy soil. Clay soil should be avoided since it induces poor rhizome development and usually causes deformation of the rhizome, which tends to break during harvesting.

Prepare the land well to ensure proper roots’ development. Initially, people would consider growing arrowroots along the river banks. However, with the advancement in technology, there are upland varieties.

They allow propagation of the crop away from swampy areas by planting in trenches or moisture beds lined with polythene paper.

Arrowroots can be propagated from suckers, rootstock or rhizomes with two or more nodes each.

At least a spacing of 20 to 30cm is needed between plants for tubers to grow well. But for big-sized arrowroots, a spacing of 30x30cm is ideal.

Watering should be done if the water levels in the soil are low. Weeding should be done to avoid competition for nutrients and space.

The crop is ready for harvesting six to 10 months after planting, depending on the variety. Harvest when most of the leaves turn yellow and are shrunken.

Ann Macharia, agronomist

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Fish pond basics

Please advise on who can help me set up a fish pond in Ongata Rongai, the best breed of fish for that area and a contact for a fish exporter.

Farmer

The best fish species to rear in Ongata Rongai are tilapia and African catfish. For fish pond set-up, call me on 0716573291.

Most fish exporters deal with sea foods and they include Peche Foods Limited and HACCP Fish Processing Factory in Kisumu.

Janice Kimuli, 
Agro-Science Park fish farm, Egerton University.

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Curbing weeds

Please advise on how to eliminate weeds from my farm. If necessary, mention the tools and substance to use and where to find them.

Eagle Line

Weed removal depends on whether you have planted or you are yet to plant. If you have planted, then you can use selective herbicides depending on what you have planted and the type of weed on your farm, with the option of physical weeding (using machinery or a hand hoe if it’s not large-scale production).

If you have not planted, then I recommend Roundup, which will clear every weed on the farm then you plant with much ease. Mix 200ml of Roundup in one knapsack sprayer (20 litres). A litre of the chemical is enough for an acre.

Sillus Oduor
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,
Egerton University.

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Black cotton soil farming

What kind of crops are suitable for farming on black cotton soil in areas in Kajiado?
Rehema

Black cotton soils are rich in clay. These soils, given a good climatic condition, allow very high crop production.

Such soils can favour growth of wheat, barley and maize. Horticultural vegetables such as spinach, sukuma wiki, tomato, brinjals, peas and green chilli can also survive in such soils.

Depending on the choice of crop, it is also important to do a good crop management for maximum productivity.

Jayo Manyasi, 
Egerton University.

 

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