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My huge gamble with rabbits is paying off

By Nanjinia Wamuswa
Shem Ariwa owner of Sunguraville farm and the technical manager Lincy Osore in Machakos County.[Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Mr Shem Ariwa, owner of Sungura Ville in Mua, Machakos County, lives and works in Hong Kong. Thanks to technology, he is able to monitor how his five workers are managing his 1,400 rabbits daily.

“If you have trusted and knowledgeable farmhands, farming even while away is doable. Though I must admit there are few hiccups,” he says.

Mr Ariwa developed passion for farming while studying a degree in Agriculture Economies, years back in Egerton University.

Before settling on rabbits, he had tried his hand in poultry keeping but failed miserably.

February last year, Ariwa ventured into rabbit farming after learning from agricultural officers that there was huge gap in rabbit farming.

“Going into rabbit farming was one of the best decisions in my life. There is demand and we are few farmers,” he says.

Before relocating to Hong Kong where he got a job, he started with 400 does and 30 bucks. Initially, to minimise costs, he converted the cages he used for rearing poultry into rabbit houses. But when he started making profits, he bought proper cages for rabbits.

Rapid multiplication

Within a year, the rabbits had given birth and multiplied and matured. He sold around 700 to hotels, mostly five star and other individual buyers. He sold a mature rabbit at Sh1,300.

“This gave me morale to continue and invest more in rabbits,” he says.

When the business stabilised, he settled in Hong Kong where he has been monitoring operations at the farm from his smart phone. But with the current global coronavirus pandemic, he is back in the country until things cool down.

For the past few years he has been at it, he has learnt vital lessons.

Previously when the bunnies were not handled well, it led to death of several of them.

He also used to buy poor quality feeds from some unscrupulous businessmen out to fleece buyers.

Ever ambitious, he plans to go big with value addition and to achieve that goal, he plans to open a slaughter house.

What you need

For those interested in going the rabbit way, Japheth Atundo, farmer and rabbit expert from Intensive Rabbit Empire Ltd says it costs around Sh700 to bring up rabbit to maturity.

Although it is possible to start and manage commercial rabbit business, Atundo explains only few Kenyans have embraced it because it is often viewed as a small boys hobby.

“Rabbit farming is a lucrative commercial venture. But people are yet to fully embrace it. As private sector, we want to join hands with government and empower Kenyans to join rabbit farming,” he says. 

He also blames socio-cultural beliefs for slow uptake of rabbit meat consumption. 

Another hurdle is lack of stable markets.

“There is no organised market for rabbit farmers although there is demand.”

But there is a silver lining given the many inquiries they get on rabbit farming.

“At a Nairobi International Trade Fair October last year, hundreds of people came seeking information on rabbit farming.”

Opportunities in rabbit business are many, he points out. For instance the meat can be used for making sausages and samosas. Their skins used to produce bags, shoes, small carpets and those used to cover dashboard of vehicles and rabbit far is used in making coats. He advises anyone venturing into rabbit farming to do thorough research on the farms that breeds rabbits to get quality rabbits.

“If you go for breeds of poor quality, the entire production will be affected, hence losses,” he warns.

He also warns of farmers getting rabbits through in-breeding.

He explains farmers should ensure that after birth the bunnies are well breast fed and kept warm. They are weaned at six weeks and kept in separate cages. 

“The cages must allow rabbits to move freely and face away from wind and rain,” he advises.

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