Rabbit farmers have received Sh10.4 million fund, opening an opportunity for Kenyans to either bred high-yielding grades for primarily their meat or cash in on the large quantities of fur generated during the slaughter process.
The fund is aimed at assisting farmers turn to commercial rabbit rearing and export to markets like UK and China.
The National Council for Science and Technology has set aside Sh10 million for rabbits value chain project whereas the government has allocated the sector Sh400,000.
Rabbit and fur farming is a moneyspinner for many farmers in developed countries who rear rabbits and sell its fur to markets like China where it is used as trim on fashion accessories such as handbags or gloves.
Prof Margaret Wanyoike, the science and technology council chairperson said, “We will support rabbit meat processing groups to identify windows of opportunity through value addition of rabbit products.”
She said value addition pilot projects in Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and Nairobi counties will start soon while addressing participants at a rabbit exhibition day in Meru County last week.
The Sh400,000 government allocation will procure rabbit breeding material through the National Rabbit Multiplication Centre based at Ngong’ in Nairobi County, said head of rabbit section Daniel Borter.
“The ministry is planning to expand the multiplication centre and has allocated the amount for purchase of breeding stock and expansion of facilities,” Mr Borter said.
Kenya is facing a shortage of breeding stock and plans are under way to import.
“We are faced by a threat of inbreeding in the country as most rabbits currently trace their origins from the Ngong’ centre. This centre needs to be revamped and expanded as well as opening other multiplication centres in other parts of the country,” he said.
Rabbit consumption is growing in Kenya as consumers seek healthier options opening opportunities for more farmers to rear, but lack of breeding stock is locking many out of the lucrative sector.
On average, breeders are selling their rabbits at between Sh2,000 to Sh5,000.
“There is such a strong hype in favour of taking up rabbit farming. If we can develop local market, we are sure that our farmers will benefit,” he said.
The ministry plans to support rabbit production through livestock extension services throughout the country, Mr Borter said.
Government estimates show total population for rabbits in the country stands at 600,000.
“The potential for rabbit production to grow into a vibrant cottage industry is enormous because of low capital requirements,” he said.
The government is looking to meet market tendering demands and establish Nema certified slaughter houses, offer freezed and canned meat into the market and run a cooperative society that will group small cooperatives.
As the Government lays its foundations to promote rabbit sector, private breeders have already set off towards maximising their profits by establishing the first abattoir in Kiambu County.
According to Central Rabbit Breeders Association (CRBA) chairman Samuel Kimani, the abattoir will cost the 800 members Sh1.2 billion.
Mr Borter said the priority objective now is to more offices will be opened at County levels and relevant information be imparted through them to rabbit breeders.
The offices, Mr Borter says, will be directed to support formation of farmer associations for purposes of organising production and marketing.
“The government has since launched rabbit farmers associations with its headquarters in Thika Town and we are sponsoring a Rabbit Stakeholders Development Forum meant to popularise production and their meat throughout the country,” he said.
However, Mr Borter warns that rabbit products are thriving on erratic prices since there are no laid down structures to regulate and control the market.
The CRBA secretary Lucy Ndung’u says the government has lagged behind in policy formulation and was relying on established breeders to teach it on how to run its affairs in rabbit matters.
“We are beyond starters and we have been importing our breeding stocks from the Western countries,” she said.