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WOMEN IN AGRIBUSINESS

How Struggle with Anaemia Gave Birth to a Venture in Organic Vegetable Farming and Rabbit Keeping in an Urban Settlement.

Mercy Munene has come a long way from her struggles with anaemia. After years of consuming supplements and medication to no avail, Mercy sought the advice of specialists who recommended incorporating organic green vegetables into her diet. However, she soon discovered that the vegetables she bought from the market were not truly organic, prompting her to start growing her own vegetables and consequently set up an urban farming business named Shamba Connect in Utawala, Nairobi.

Living in an urban settlement, Mercy saw an opportunity to start the urban farming business, Shamba Connect, which has now become a leading small-space farming solution provider in Kenya. The company designs and installs gardens in homes and institutions, providing families with access to organic, home-grown vegetables. They use recycled plastic to create vertical, hydroponic, and customized gardens, in addition to training and equipping youth and vulnerable women in urban farming skills to establish sustainable livelihoods using climate-smart agricultural techniques such as seedling propagation units and offer an end to end solution where they give you the soil, manure, seedlings and garden materials.

To ensure sustainability of the organic vegetable production, Mercy started rabbit farming, where rabbit manure acts as fertilizer for the vegetables. She started with six female rabbits and later added males that facilitated breeding. Considering the short gestation period, the number of rabbits grew to more than 400 within a few years. Mercy breeds a variety of rabbits including Flemish Giant which weighs 7-8 kilograms, Chinchilla, New Zealand, California White, Havana, and Dutch.

She sells rabbit meat, manure, urine, and rabbit skin. Rabbit meat is priced between Kshs. 680-720 per kilogram, rabbit urine costs Kshs. 100 per litre and can be used as an organic pesticide, and rabbit manure is Kshs. 500 per 50kg bag. Rabbit manure has the highest nitrogen and phosphorus content, making it ideal for fruit trees and vegetables. The manure doesn’t require composting as with cow manure, and it can be used directly on the farm. The company is also planning to manufacture organic fertilizers from the rabbit manure for sale. Some of customers who buy the rabbit urine also use it to manufacture folia fertilizer.

She also sells rabbit breeders where weeners that is 2-3 months old retail at Kshs. 800, 3-4 months Kshs. 1500, 5-6months Kshs. 2000, a mature buck Kshs. 3000 and a mature doe Kshs. 2500.

Mercy notes that the rabbit market is available, and the demand is so high that no rabbit farmer can meet it alone. Therefore, she is working with other rabbit farmers to register an association to take advantage of the numbers. Mercy is also committed to making use of every part of the rabbit, as she notes that most rabbit farmers in Kenya export the skin to Europe for tanning while the rest goes to waste. She hopes to change that by working with the association of other rabbit farmers to lobby for a rabbit tannery where they can make scarfs, shoes, jackets, hats among others for the cold weather

Most of Mercy’s clients are individuals, restaurants, and supermarkets. She plans to expand her client list to include hospitals soon. She also works with NGOs to provide training to women in urban farming and rabbit keeping. So far, over 1000 women have been trained online in urban farming, with 50 women receiving physical training in rabbit farming.

Mercy’s advice to people living in the urban settlements to venture into the lucrative business as the profit margin is double the investment and it is ideal for urban settlements because rabbits are very quiet and not demanding at all and they feed twice a day only on pellets and hay.

Mercy Munene at her farm in Utawala

Her advice to people living in urban settlements is to venture into the lucrative business, as the profit margin is double the investment, and rabbit farming is ideal for urban settlements because rabbits are quiet, not demanding at all, and feed only twice a day on pellets and hay.

To learn more about Shamba Connect or inquire about training, purchasing rabbits, or products, you can contact Mercy on 0725684352/0733610264, or through social media as @Shamba Connect.

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