A kikuyu based businessman is buying rabbits from all-comers across Kenya for value addition purposes after leaving his previous job of selling printers.
Elias is the founder of Kimka rabbits, the promoters and suppliers of rabbit meat, by products and breeds. He adds value to rabbit meat to make rabbit delicacies such as sausages, pies, kebabs, choma etc. However, his main product is sausages.
Besides rabbit meat value addition, Elias also uses other rabbit by-products such as the skin and fur to make leather shoes, wallets, hair clips and bags and phone jackets.
“Kimka Rabbits was financed by previous business Kimka Printers and Stationers. From printing business, I saved and gradually invested in rabbit farming business at a tune of Sh100,000. In the midst of challenges, up and downs, turn and twist, with determination and passion, I ventured into value addition. Value addition came with cost that runs from mincing machine, mixing machine and filling machine, Key components for any headway to value addition,” said Kabiri.
In 2012 rearing rabbits for five years, Kabiri decided to venture into value addition so as to earn more income after lacking ready market. The business has since transformed into a full enterprise enabling him to sustain his family.
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Elias Kabiri preparing rabbit sausages at the 2018 Nyeri Agricultural show.
Kimka Rabbits is based in Kikuyu town but the farmer cum entrepreneur normally sells his products in agricultural exhibitions, farming events and shows conducted by the Agricultural Society of Kenya countrywide.
“If only people opened their minds to the value of white rabbit meat, today there would be fewer diseases associated with red meat. Rabbit meat is recommended for a variety of health specific specialty diets such as diabetes, gouts and hypertension amongst others since it is low in cholesterol, calories, saturated fat, and highly digestible hence suitable for both the old and the young people,” said Elias.
Besides the nutritious value of the meat, Elias also utilizes other rabbit products such as the skin and urine to make leather shoes, wallets, bags, ties and foliar fertilizer respectively.
“Rabbit Urine has high levels of nitrogen. Nitrogen is a key element in healthy leaf formation. This makes it an appropriate folia boosting fertiliser. Because of the concentration of the compounds in the urine, the liquid also kills crop pests like aphids,” he said.
With this conviction, Elias has set out to educate farmers on rabbit keeping and slaughtering assuring them of a ready market after realizing that the only impediment to farmers rearing rabbits is an assured market.
His company has a grass root 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,” he said.
In these workshops, Kimka Rabbits offers training on various aspects of rabbit keeping including how to build cages as well as tips on proper feeding and maintenance, slaughtering and packaging meat for delivery.
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 in value addition.
“I chose rabbits over other domestic animals since they require less space, they mature faster within four months and are prolific in nature- giving as one female rabbit can give birth to up to eight bunnies once every month,” said Kabiri.
A research conducted by S.K Mailu, L Muhammad, M.M Wanyoike and R.N. Mwanza of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization found the frequency of rabbit meat consumption to be very low, even for rabbit keepers with 46 per cent of this group doing so at most, once every 12 months compared to 73 percent for non-rabbit farmers. This is due to lack insufficient promotion, erratic product supply, unreasonable prices, and competition from other meats.
KALRO reports that 84.8 per cent of rabbit production in the country is done by small scale farmers.
There are estimated 600,000 rabbits in Kenya and rabbit keeping is gaining interest in the country having previously being considered a boys’ hobby. The research reveals that the reduction in land-size holdings has pushed farmers to choose livestock enterprises such as rabbit production which have low demand on land and feed resources. For this reason and the fact that they are noiseless, rabbit keeping is particularly suited to peri-urban farmers who may choose to raise their rabbits without fear of being a nuisance to neighbours.
The main breeds kept are New Zealand white (29 per cent), crossbreeds (24 per cent), Californian white (12 per cent), Chinchilla (11.5 per cent), Dutch (eight per cent), Flemish giant (5.5 per cent) and French Lop (4 per cent).