Moses Mutua, founder, and owner of Rabbit Republic Ltd holding two rabbit kits. Mutua started as an aquaculture farmer before venturing into rabbit keeping. Photo: jfrabbits.blogspot.com
In 2012 Moses Mutua, a Kenyan agro-entrepreneur decided to take a risk and abandoned fish farming to start rabbit rearing, a venture he did not know much about besides having little capital to scale it to the level he desired. Today he owns one of the biggest and growing rabbit firm in East Africa.
He says resilience, constant research and creating awareness across the country and beyond has seen him create one of the biggest rabbits farming and value chain in the East African region and beyond. His company Rabbit Republic Ltd is now operating in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda serving other countries such as Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi among others.
“The journey has never been easy and kind given the challenges such as high cost of production and ever-changing status of our economy. In addition, I had no in-depth knowledge about rabbit farming but thanks to improved technology which has made my research easy,” said Mutua.
To begin, he started fish farming in 2010 under Aqua Farm Consultant Company but when all did not go well, he decided to rebrand it to the Rabbit Republic in 2012 and leased a land at Kamulu, a small town located roughly 40km from Nairobi Central Business District where he would start keeping rabbits.
Rabbit Republic Ltd then partnered with government agricultural agencies to help in the promotion of rabbit farming in Kenya and create awareness about the nutrition value of rabbit meat. He would be offered stands at various agricultural events and shows across the country to educate farmers.
“I also got involved in cooking shows on some of the television programs in Kenya and made advertisements to intensify the awareness campaigns,” said Mutua.
By 2014 the business was at its pick. The company grew from just a few rabbits that it stated with to about 1,000 animals. This was due to the high demand for rabbit meat that was already being witnessed in the country.
RELATED STORY: Company contracting farmers to rear rabbits
In 2015 a bank approached him and told him to build a rabbit meat processing plant where the company would do value addition on the meat while the bank would support especially on operational costs.
Mutual then moved to invest Sh25m to put up an abattoir and buy other equipment needed in the value addition. “We started making products such as sausages and burgers others to sell to our customers which included supermarkets and other major food retailers in Kenya.”
Unfortunately, the bank declined to honour its word later in the year at a critical point when the company needed operational support especially to pay farmers who supplied the firm with rabbits.
Due to lack of enough cash, Mutua started talking to farmers to supply him on credit but this too seemed difficult as some farmers were not willing to accept the company’s payment plan.
“Farmers would like to be paid in cash but if delayed they would spread a bad message about the buyer and this causes refrain from other new farmers to work with the buyer. This besides the high cost of production in terms of drugs and feeds is what we faced,” said Mutua.
This brought the company to its knees in 2016. However, he met a fellow agro-entrepreneur from Tanzania in the same year and after their business discussion and research, Mutua in partnership decided to move the business to Tanzania.
RELATED STORY: New market opens up for rabbit farmers
The company lost the land at Kamulu so some rabbits were transported to Moshi and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania where the duo registered a company known as Rabbit Bliz which has grown to other three different branches in the country which operate under the parent Rabbit Republic Ltd.
In Tanzania, the company has its operating bases at Moshi, Dar-es-Salaam, and Mbeya. Rabbit Republic Ltd also has its other sister companies in Uganda where meat is produced for various markest with the bulk being brought to major customers in Kenya.
The company rears about 16 breeds of rabbits such as Kenyan dutch, California white, Newzealand white, Checkered giant, chinchilla, and Giant Flemish among others. These are high-quality breeds which if feed well can attain up to four kilograms in five months according to Mutua.
“We supply four tonnes of rabbit meat every month to various five-star hotels and selected retail stores in Kenya as the country is in high demand of rabbit meat given most of the imports come from South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda,” he said.
RELATED STORY: Association looking for farmers to rear rabbits
Rabbit Republic Ltd, sells a kilo of rabbit meat at Sh1,200 and there are plans to expand the business to the West Africa region to increase production.
“We welcome willing farmers to work with us on a contract basis and we are happy that some companies in West Africa have shown interest in working with us.”
Already the company has built breeding centres in Machakos County and at Karen in Nairobi with an intention to move to other counties.
Moses can be reached on +254 704 124499