Thirty-year-old Bicham Waita, who rears rabbits, has weathered a storm, rising from despair to prosperity. Four years ago, he was a very distressed man having invested all his money and hope in rabbit keeping in his home in Kikuyu constituency, Kiambu County.
Bicham had ventured into the business after a friend convinced him to rear rabbits, which were then being sold at between Ksh5,000 and Ksh6,000 each. But as fate would have it, buyers disappeared just at a time when he expected to make a killing from nearly 100 rabbits.
“It was the most devastating moment in my life. I sold the rabbits at a throwaway price, ate some and gave others to my friends, and vowed never to breed them again,” he recalls. “I even made the drastic decision to move to Kaimbaga in Nyandarua to grow potatoes.”
However, during a visit to Ol Kalou Township one day, the portrait of a rabbit on the wall of a building caught his attention. This building, it turned out, had a restaurant that serves rabbit meat, Rabbits Bite Hotel. Out of curiosity, he went there to find out what this was all about.
“The place was full to capacity. I felt confused, I was not sure of what I wanted,” he recalls. He found a seat and ordered a plate of roast rabbit meat.
He made up his mind to see the manager, which he did. It was the best decision he has ever made in his life, he says, because he got to learn about an organisation that has not only changed his fortunes, but also the lives of many other farmers.
Rabbits Bite at Ol Kalou is one of many eateries and outreach offices owned by the Rabbits Breeders Association of Kenya-RABAK, a 10-year-old farmers’ organisation promoting the breeding and eating of rabbit meat.
The Nairobi-based association has branches in other parts of the country, including Kiambu, and has contracted more than 7,000 small-scale farmers countrywide. Nyandarua regional field officer Ann Wairimu says the association’s members are unable to meet the demand for rabbit meat.
The organisation supplies live rabbits to individuals and schools for breeding, and meat to individuals, hospitals and other institutions. “There is an increasing demand for rabbit meat both locally and internationally,” Ms Wairimu adds. Last year, a Japanese investor sought rabbit meat.
“But we were unable to meet his one-container per week requirement.” Mr Waita was motivated by RABAK’s commitment to farmers and payments on delivery. He also did not have to dig deep into his pocket to feed the rabbits. He used earnings from rabbit urine to feed them.
The association buys rabbit urine at Ksh50 a litre, which is enough to feed one rabbit and make some profit, while waiting for them to mature. “A rabbit produces two to three litres of urine a week. If you take an average of two litres weekly, a farmer is guaranteed Ksh100. The cost of feeding a rabbit is Ksh50 per week,” says Ms Wairimu.
The urine is used to make folia feed fertiliser called Rabbits Farm Wonder that retails at Ksh500 a litre. “Most of the time it is out of stock; we have a long list of farmers waiting to be supplied.”
The challenge now, she adds, is that farmers have learnt about the value of this urine and can’t be forced to sell to the association. Rabbits Farm Wonder helps to improve soil texture, boosts the nitrogen cycle, and kills pathogens in the soil. It also repels crop pests and insects.
The product is applied once in every four months. An agronomist, Mr Peter Nginya, says rabbit urine produces a scent that keeps away insects, and is, therefore, a biological pest control.
READ FULL STORY INSIDE ISSUE 37 OF SMART FARMER MAGAZINE