James Kaniu borrowed Sh30,000 loan from a Chama with the aim of venturing into agribusiness. His plan was to lease a piece of land and venture into farming.
What he did not know was that the landowner was leasing out the farm as nothing could grow in it due to nuisance by rodents. He planted Irish potatoes but moles devoured almost all the potato seeds and the resulting crop.
And as if that was not enough, whatever little he harvested and stored at home was raided by mice and rats making the already bad situation worse. He was on the verge of being auctioned by the group popularly known as Chama had lend him the money as he got nothing from the farm.
“I had leased two acres of land at Sh10,000 and used the remaining money from the loan to buy seeds, farm inputs, and labour,” Kaniu says. “I felt like the farmer had not leased land to me but moles since I could not harvest anything from it,” he adds.
But his tribulations saw the farmer accidentally turn what he saw as lemon in his life into lemonade. Left with nothing to show in terms of harvest and a debt to pay, Kaniu decided to not say die but try to earn back his investment and at least some profit from the farm.
It is then that the idea of making traps and setting them in strategic places on the farm in Kigumo in Nyahururu came up. An idea came to him that he could make traps for both the destructive moles, mice, and rats.
The venture was a success and he believes that this has been a solution to challenges facing not only him but also many other farmers.
“It later dawned on me that since the plan was a success, I could venture in traps making as a side hustle and as well as help my fellow farmers,” he says.
This was after some research which ultimately did not disappoint as his first rat trap managed to trap two rats. This was a great achievement.
When we caught up with Kaniu, he was at Nyeri Coffee expo exhibiting his traps that would help farmers deal with the rodents that cause havoc in their coffee plantations and other farm crops.
Today, the 45-year-old farmer makes and sells over 300 traps per month, as a side hustle, which on a good month earns him Sh45,000 per month. The moles' problem, he says, came as a blessing in disguise.
Other than the proceeds from the traps helping him cater to all his family’s basic needs, it has also enabled him to educate his two children one in college and the other in secondary school.
More so, he is glad that he used the same proceeds to pay his wife’s dowry last year and has also hired two casual labourers to help him in the making of the traps. He says production cost of a piece is Sh150 while he sells the traps at Sh300 each further making a profit of between Sh100 to 150 per trap.
“When I am out for field exhibitions like this one, I sell the traps at a low price of Sh200 as a way of promoting my work to farmers,” he says.
This also helps the farmers market the traps to other farmers by word of mouth. He has also written his contacts on the traps which enable farmers who buy the traps to easily refer their colleagues to him.
He says the phone number inscribed on the trap is to ensure that farmers seek advice from him whenever they are unable to use the traps or even pass the number to other farmers yearning to acquire one.
To set the trap, one puts a string passing across the circular metal sheet.
The string is meant to impede the mole from reaching the bait inside which is mostly some smelling plants or weeds such as coriander or Mexican marigold known in Kikuyu as Mubangi.
The trap is set at the moles' entrance to the hole and soil used to cover the side of the trap so that it looks like it’s a normal entrance to the hole. Other than the smelling plants serving as bait, it is also used to clear the human scent occasioned by the touching of the trap.
This string acts as a hurdle to the mole and so it has to cut it.
The string which restrains the spring releases it killing the mole instantly by strangling it.
To make the trap he buys the springs, some wires and a metal sheet which is cut according to the required size. He has been in the business for two years now and sold the traps in various parts of the country. The rat trap is best suited in farm stores where the rodents access.
His future plans are to mass-produce the traps and distribute them in agro vet shops and hardware shops and even export some.