Kimka Rabbits brings a new concept of value addition in agri-business

By Caroline Mwendwa

The springboard of entrepreneurship is creativity. Aware of the nutritious value of rabbit meat, Kimka Rabbits plunged into the business of processing this rare type of meat into sausages, introducing a new concept in agricultural value chain.  “If only people opened their minds to the value of rabbit meat, today there would be less diseases.” With this conviction, they set out to educate farmers on rabbit keeping and slaughtering assuring them of a ready  market. “The only impediment to farmers rearing rabbits is an assured market. If you assure them that there will be market for their meat, then keeping rabbits is no big deal,” says a partner of Kimka Rabbits.

Their model
Kimka Rabbits has a grassroot operation model where it holds workshops with farmers in various regions of the country on a regular basis, to offer training on rabbit rearing. “We have already registered over 50 members who are our suppliers from these meetings, and others are joining in.” in these workshops. Kimka Rabbits offers training on various aspects of rabbit keeping including how to build them cages as well as tips on proper feeding and maintenance.
Once a member has established a  partnership with them, they stock the rabbits and through their support, keep them to maturity, slaughter them and sell the meat to  Kimka Rabbits where it  is used to make sausages.
“We also guide farmers on how to slaughter the rabbits since it is easier to collect already slaughtered meat for processing.”
Kimka Rabbits always showcase their venture in any agricultural forum that farmers are present and that is how they have been able to grow their numbers progressively.
Even though they have not yet established relationships with suppliers such as supermarkets, Kimka rabbits have outlets through which they sell their sausages. “We are however looking to establish a more reliable and efficient distribution model.”

Constructing a hutch
A hutch (rabbit house) can be constructed from mud and wattle or with bricks and the roof covered by iron sheets or grass. But it should be constructed well above the ground.  The floor should be constructed from welded wire mesh to allow the droppings to fall through which keeps the hutch clean. He also says that the hutch should be well ventilated because rabbits are susceptible to respiratory diseases.
The upper part of the  wall should be made of nets to allow maximum ventilation while the floor can be covered by dry grass or old clothes which can act as a confortable bedding for rabbits especially when they are about to give birth even though female rabbits also discard some of their hair and use it as bedding  for their young ones.

Why rabbit meat?
According to Kimka, rabbit is the easiest of domestic animals to rear as it consumes less space and requires minimum feeding. The value of its meat is also high  due to the fact that it is cholesterol-free. They are also advantageous in their reproductive nature. “Of significance is that rabbits are prolific since their gestation period ranges between 28 to 31 days. T  he female rabbit does not come into heat as do other animals. The doe will accept the male at any time of the year.
Does are mature and can breed at five to six months of age and can continue to have young ones for four years.  A doe can produce from one  to twelve  young ones  each time she gives birth. She can become pregnant again within a few days of giving birth. However,  it is not good practice to allow the doe to become pregnant straight after giving birth. It is better to mate the doe when her young (litter) are 4 weeks old so that they are 8 weeks old when the next litter is born. In this way one doe can produce 6 litters a year.

A rabbit, by nature, can conceive 24 hours after giving birth, which means it can produce kits almost every one-and-half months. Also, rabbit droppings provide high quality manure, which can be used as fertiliser by vegetable farmers. Rabbits are easy to look after because they feed on almost all fresh leaves. They  can also be fed on maize bran and kitchen waste.
Another advantage is that rabbits are not susceptible to malnutrition. They manufacture some of the vital body nutrients within their bodies because they are caproghagic that is, rabbits eat their faeces from which they extract more body nutrients which are manufactured in their large intestines.

Feeding rabbits
A farmer rearing rabbits can buy ready-mixed rabbit feed (pellets) made from grain, plants, minerals and vitamins and supplement them with  vegetables such as carrots, sugar beet, manger beet, parsnip, swede, turnip, potato and other root vegetables; Green leaves, sunflower, young branches of trees such as acacia and bran produced from wheat or rice.
In addition, rabbit rearing is not labour-intensive if you compare them to goats or cattle which means a farmer spends less on labour.

Challenges in rabbit rearing
In most parts of Africa, consuming rabbit meat is a taboo and this poses a huge challenge to farmers since debunking these myths is not a one day affair. “People have get over perceptions that hold them from consuming rabbit meat because they keep them from enjoying the nutritious meat because it is not traditionally accepted.”
The fact that rabbit meat is highly consumed in international hotels even within our country is proof enough that there is something of great value in it.
Another challenge is that the monetary value of rabbits cannot be well explained which each person paying a different price. Rabbits are also susceptible to predators like dogs when reared free range.

Leather from rabbit skin
As a result of slaughtering rabbits, Kimka also deals in leather products such as shoes, and huts made from the skins obtained from the rabbits. “The fur on rabbits skin is attractive to many, and since the skin is left after slaughtering the rabbits for meat, we make use of it by making beautiful items such as sandals, hats and bags.” The items are usually of very high quality due to skin from which they are made. Their uniqueness is another aspect that attracts customers.
Through this separate venture, Kimka says that they have been able to create employment through slaughter houses and handiwork in making these items out of the rabbit skin.

Going forward
For Kimka, there are  opportunities  in rabbit keeping, and they have made it their mission to popularize rabbit meat over all other types of meat. “We envisage a situation where rabbit meat is perceived to be of the same category in value and preference as chicken meat.”
They also intend to traverse borders with this business, bringing in more people from various countries to venture into rabbit keeping and popularizing the consumption of their meat.



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