Monthly Archives: August 2013

Former guard on a mission to develop ‘Rabbit Republic’

former-guard

IN SUMMARY

· As chance would have it, his venture got a shot in the arm through the government’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) which helped farmers stock more fish in their ponds during the 2009/2010 financial year.

Moses Mutua, 34, is a cut above the rest in Kenya’s rabbit farming business. As the founder and chairman of Rabbit Republic, the former guard ships his products to markets in East Africa, China, France, and Germany.

Mr Mutua was reluctantly recruited as a guard with Wells Fargo in 2002 after seeing his dreams of being conscripted into the Kenya Defence Forces fail to materialise, he says.

At Wells Fargo, he enrolled for a course at Kenya Institute of Professional Studies, graduating with a diploma in sales and marketing.“I embarked on a serious job hunt and landed an opportunity at an agribusiness company, Aqua-Pro, as a salesman. I worked with the firm for two years and left in 2007,” he told Money.

As a salesman, he developed a keen interest in agribusiness through capacity building initiatives by the firm on best practices in aquaculture.

“A training by a team of Israelis on ornamental fishing motivated me to register ‘Aquafarm Consultants’, an investment that embarked on massive production of tilapia fingerlings,” he said.

As chance would have it, his venture got a shot in the arm through the government’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) which helped farmers stock more fish in their ponds during the 2009/2010 financial year.

With increased production, he started contemplating launching a business with an even higher potential. Mr Mutua had already identified rabbit farming as an opportunity seeing him begin a two-year survey on the sub-sector in Kenya with a view to identifying the gaps that needed to be filled. His efforts gave rise to the Rabbit Republic Limited.

“I studied all sorts of domesticated rabbits and their food value; established links with farmers who were already in the business albeit in small-scale. We have been professionalising the business,” he said.

In 2011, he partnered with an institution and setup a farm in Ongata Rongai with a capacity to hold over 10,000 rabbits and an abattoir. Mr Mutua would then leave his aquaculture investment.

He later registered the company Rabbit Republic Limited last year.

“After 2010 ASK shows in Eldoret and Nairobi, I secured contacts with many farmers who showed interest in rabbit farming,” he said.

In Rabbit Republic, Mr Mutua says that he engaged farmers through training on best practices in breeding, hatch construction, disease management, feeding and production control.

He says that the Kenyan market is projected to serve an international demand of over 120 tonnes per day in Spain, China and other markets. His business plans to open outlets in the 47 counties.

“We are planning to set up model farms in every county; commercial rabbit farming has a potential of raising domestic income of Sh20,000 per month and above for every farmer participating in the project; this can be raised by as little as five breeder rabbits” he notes.

Rabbit Republic managing director Yash Goel says that the firm is in talks with other stakeholders — banks, financial institutions, insurers and NGO’s.

“We have launched initiatives to link farmers with companies offering credit; this will in turn help in eradication of poverty, food shortage, and unemployment” said Mr Goel.

Mr Goel added that the farm is working on setting up a pellet production plant to reduce the cost of feeding and regularize its availability.

Source: By MOSES OGADA mogada@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Wednesday, August 7 2013 at 18:36

Wonder tree with Medicinal value gives hope to Farmers in Arid areas

moringa

In Summary

To ensure accountability, Botanic treasures works with groups of farmers.

• It takes nine months for a farmer to start earning from the ‘magic tree’ with a kilo of its dry produce attracting Sh300. Her firm buys both leaves, the back and to a minor extend, the roots of moringa tree.

The skill of traditional medicine has for long been handed down orally from one generation to the other, a strategy that has seen herbalists keep their trade secret.

It is, therefore, not unusual to see herbalists marketing their products in intricately labelled containers, ostensibly to keep the ingredients private.

But Elizabeth Mbogo is changing the trade and has no secrets about the ingredients of her product that saw her ditch a high-flying career five years ago.

The mother-of-two was shoved into the world of herbal medicine at her lowest moment by her husband in 2007.

“I had no milk to breast feed my first child and all the known modern methods had failed until my husband brought me some nondescript seeds to chew and the results were instantaneous,” she says.

All over a sudden, she had milk in plenty to breast feed her bundle of joy.

Through study, she would later establish that the “magic seed” came from a wild tree scientifically known as moringa oleifera. It was used on small-scale by those who knew of its healing benefits.

“The more I used moringa, the more I got convinced to share it. I won over my extended family and friends to use it and their health improved considerably,” she says.

Internet searches and literature review on the tree surprised her as to why no entrepreneur had exploited the crop commercially.

The thought of making moringa a lifestyle for Kenyans kept recurring and eventually she quit her job from a local film company to invest in the magic tree. She started with buying the herb and going to every event she could manage — women chama meetings, school gatherings, church forums and agricultural field days just to popularise her new-found passion.

“I would receive lots of questions from farmers and consumers but I would make sales at the end of every presentation,” she says.

Her mission, she notes, went beyond teaching and helping people make the right diet choices; it involved putting in place information systems for the data which she had obtained. She went the World Agroforestry Centre searching for information on the different species of moringa and where the tree can grow best. The Ministry of Agriculture, department of nutrition, offered her a ready farmer’s forum where she championed for its planting and use.

Since she wanted to professionalise her herbal medicine practice, Ms Mbogo partnered with her husband — an agronomist — to register a firm, Botanic treasures, dealing in processing, distributing and retailing of nutritional health products majorly from moringa olifeira.

Currently, her firm has over 1,000 acres of land under moringa spread in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas and owned by a network of 500 farmers. The tree thrives well in arid climatic conditions.

“We are currently working with over 500 farmers in Turkana, Yatta, Makueni, Meru, Mbeere, Siaya, Bomet, Taita, Muranga, Nyeri, Kilgoris, Embu, Malindi and Lamu from whom we invest and buy the produce” she notes.

To ensure accountability, Botanic treasures works with groups of farmers. Her husband uses his knowledge in agronomy to train farmers on best farming practices, for example, on organic pest control in order to ensure that their product meets both local and international standards.

Botanic treasures, she says, is a social enterprise offering marginalised farmers in arid and semi arid regions a crop that can make good income

Yields increase

“As a social entrepreneur, I constantly plough back my profits to train farmers on growing and use of moringa,” she says. It takes nine months for a farmer to start earning from the ‘magic tree’ with a kilo of its dry produce attracting Sh300. Her firm buys both leaves, the back and to a minor extend, the roots of moringa tree.

A well-tended acre of the tree has the potential to give a farmer about Sh125,000 every month in an entire harvesting season. The yields increase as the tree grows older.

Her company has invested in a 50-acre nucleus of the tree to ensure a continuous supply of the raw material at their processing plant when supplies are not forthcoming.

After processing in their factory based at Karen, Nairobi, the various herbal products from moringa are supplied to supermarkets and distributors in and outside the country.

“We have a distributor in Botswana with several individuals in the diaspora requesting for regular supplies from our website which we deliver,” says Mrs Mbogo.

Five years since she opened her business with Sh30,000 capital, Botanic treasures has employed eight people besides offering an income to farmers in arid and semi-arid areas.

Source: By RAMENYA GIBENDI rgibendi@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Wednesday, August 7 2013 at 18:38