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Last Update: June 20, 2013

At a workshop convened for stakeholders in May 2011, the Government of Kenya launched an initiative to promote rabbit rearing as a suitable industry that can contribute towards food security, wealth and employment creation. A forum comprising of experts was formed to spearhead the initiative and formulate strategies to promote rabbit keeping and consumption. The 3 year project is dubbed ``strategies to promote the rabbit value chain in Kenya’’.

Being cognizant of the Governments initiative to promote rabbit rearing as a sustainable industry, the vast market potential for rabbit meat as well as the demonstrated capacity of small scale farmers to adopt new ideas, I am persuaded that now would be the opportune moment for private sector investors to venture into the industry so as to nurture and propel its growth at this infancy stage. In this regard, the establishment of a pilot project to recruit the initial contract out-breeders for the commercial rearing of rabbits would be a step in the right direction. This would be a precursor to replicating the same in other regions of the country. Meru county is amongst the three regions that have been selected to participate in this project `….based on the rabbit population and the number of farmers rearing rabbits’. I would therefore suggest that Igoji division of Meru County is the ideal location for the setting up of the pilot project.

With the right incentives in place, the farmers are bound to embrace commercial rabbit rearing with enthusiasm as it would diversify and increase their income streams. This would in turn be the catalyst for the rapid expansion of the industry. I envisage that through a sustained expansion programme, Kenya has the potential to emerge as a major producer of rabbit meat both for the domestic and export market within the next 5 years. Among the recommendations proffered by our Export Promotion Council (EPC) in their newsletter dated may 2011 on the way forward for the rabbit meat industry in Kenya, ``….. is the establishment of a Rabbit Breeders Association in line with the associations established in Ghana which led to the successful establishment of a rabbit meat industry in that country.”

The purpose of my creating this Changeshop is to inform and interest investors and/or collaborators on the opportunities there are in venturing into the rabbit meat production and processing industry in Kenya at its infancy stage. This model of a pilot project that I am putting forward, will act as the forerunner for contract out-breeder establishments in other divisions in Meru County and ultimately other regions of the country. These out-breeder establishments would then be brought together under a country wide Rabbit Breeders Association.

The two largest pork and chicken processing companies in East Africa namely Farmers Choice and Kenchic respectively, which are both based here in Kenya, have successfully applied this concept of out-breeders alongside their nuclear farms to grow and expand their businesses.

Type: hybrid

The Problem

Igoji division of Meru County has a population of approximately 150,000. The majority of its inhabitants are small scale farmers whose main economic activities had for years revolved around the farming of coffee, tea and dairy. However, the cultural tradition of sub-dividing family land amongst the male offspring (many of whom are otherwise unemployed) has taken its toll and continues to put enormous pressure on land to grow both cash and food crops. Today, the average landholding per family is 1 ½ acres. Owing to this tradition and the ever diminishing size in land holdings, many households have progressively discarded coffee and tea as viable farming options. In the place of these cash crops the farmers have taken up the farming of horticultural crops such as green peas, French beans and passion fruit all of which have a shorter turn-around period and provide reasonable returns from the small parcels of land that they own. Those with capital to spare have taken up poultry and dairy goat farming. It becomes apparent that these farmers are quite adaptable and are capable of making adjustments in the face of changes in their circumstances. Notwithstanding their adaptability to these changes, the returns they earn from these new farming activities don’t go as far as those that were previously earned from tea and coffee because they now have to support enlarged families. As a consequence, family incomes have over the years continued to shrink significantly to the extent that today, and in spite of their capacity for industry, the average household of six in Igoji division lives on less than $ 5 per day. To make ends meet, most of these households remain dependant on financial support from relatives employed in our urban centers. In order to contain and reverse this trend, there is an urgent need to introduce to the inhabitants of Igoji an alternative and sustainable source of livelihood that does not place undue demand on land. The introduction of commercial rabbit rearing alongside the Governments initiative would be a suitable alternative that would resonate well with the farmers and it would also contribute positively in the uplifting of their economic status.

The Solution

In selecting Meru County as one of the regions that will participate in the initiative to ``…promote the rabbit value chain” the forum of experts were by extension acknowledging that the farmers from Igoji division which is within Meru County, are already familiar with the rearing of rabbits for domestic purposes. Accordingly, it would only require the right incentives and training for them to become conversant with modern methods in commercial husbandry. The farmers in Igoji are industrious, thrift- savy and quick to embrace new ideas that are intended to improve their economic wellbeing. Proof of this is evident in the macadamia trees, chicken rearing, French beans, passion fruit etc activities that were variously introduced to them and are now farmed extensively. Kaguru Farmers Centre which hosted the inception workshop for stakeholders and at which the Government initiative was launched, is only a stone’s throw away from Igoji. Experts from the center and the National Agricultural and Livestock extension Programme (NALEP) would provide the necessary extension services to the farmers on modern practices in commercial husbandry. The objective of establishing a pilot project in Igoji division is that it would serve as the precursor on which other similar projects would be modeled in the other divisions of the Meru County and ultimately the other regions of the country. The first step in this direction, would be to set up a functional demonstration cum breeding unit around which the pilot project will evolve and expand. The initial capital outlay that would be required in the first financial year for the start up and operation of a demonstration unit, equipping and maintaining a training/coordination team and the construction of a slaughter slab and cold room will be US $ 100,000 as tabulated hereunder:- Demonstration/Breeding Unit • Construction • Breeding Stock • Feeds • Fuel/energy $ 8,500 Slaughter Slab/Cold Room/staff • Construction • Equipment $ 45,500 Training/Recruitment • Seminars • TOTs $ 14,000 Equipment • Training materials • Training Equipment • Three tricycles $ 7,000 Staff Emoluments • Project Co-ordinator • Unit Manager/Trainer • Unit Asst. Manager • 3 Trainers/Co-ordinators • 2 Unit Farm Hands $ 25,000 TOTAL $ 100,000 It is conceivable that a robust and thriving rabbit meat industry would have an enormous impact on, and add value to the Kenyan economy. It would not only offer up opportunities for major investors to start and grow large meat processing companies, and thereby contribute to employment creation, but it would also open up avenues for the lucrative trade in the export of furskins. Most importantly, the industry would positively transform the economic fortunes of many small producers’ and leverage assets for the poor. Others that would stand to benefit from the spinoff in this rabbit value chain, are the manufacturers of animal feeds, distributors, stockists, tanneries, veterinary officers, butcheries restauranteurs etc. not to mention the attendant health benefits for the consumption of rabbit meat which is highest in protein percentage and the most nutritious meat known to man.


Akin to other patriarchal rural communities in Kenya, the wealth of a family amongst the Ameru, was traditionally measured in terms of the number of cattle and goats that a family owned. Over the years, the indigenous breeds have since been replaced by the high yielding exotic breeds of dairy cows. So whereas dairy production is considered an important source of milk for consumption and income, rabbit production has yet to be taken seriously and could best be regarded as a hobby for women and children. Currently, production is characterized by poor husbandry practices and poor breeding and feeding programmes. As the agricultural land sizes continue to diminish, and the rural populations continue to soar, there are several distinct advantages that would make commercial rabbit rearing an attractive and profitable enterprise for the small producers and by extension also make a compelling case for the would- be investor to promote rabbit meat production as a viable industry:- 1. Rabbits multiply at a very rapid rate. 2. Unlike other livestock, rabbit rearing requires only small parcels of land and has a higher annual turnover per unit land. 3. A rabbit matures within 5 months after birth – an ideal turn-around period for farmers. 4. The start-up costs, maintenance & feeds are considerably lower than that of other livestock. 5. Rabbits have a high-feed conversion efficiency. 6. There is a growing domestic demand for the cholesterol free rabbit meat amongst the burgeoning middle and upper income brackets in our urban population. 7. There is a ready market for rabbit meat through the Kenya Meat commission and other high end butcheries. 8. There is a huge untapped potential for rabbit meat and its by-products in the export market. The main challenge will be to change the farmer’s attitudes towards rabbit production so that they may embrace it as a viable enterprise. Some groups of forward looking farmers in Central province have taken the lead in this regard, where there are a number of common interest groups (CIG’s) that have been formed and whose members have embarked on rabbit rearing as an income generating activity. One such group is the Kasarani Farmers Common Interest Group with a current membership of 20 women retirees. The group’s members received training and other extension services from the National agricultural and livestock Extension Programme (NALEP). The group which was formed in 2008 has positively transformed the income bases and lives of these retirees to the extent that each of its members earn in excess of ksh 20,000.00 ($ 240) per month from proceeds from the sale of rabbits into the local market. This is well above the meager Kshs 4,000.00 they receive on average in monthly pension benefits.

Budget: $50,000 - $100,000


In its newsletter dated 27th May, the Export Promotion council (EPC) of Kenya summarized the values in the global trade of rabbit meat in 2009 as follows:- • The value in the global export of rabbit meat was US $ 200.29 million, and is currently dominated by 5 countries namely china (20.7%), France (16.9%), Belgium (14%), Hungary (13.6%) and Italy (9.2%) cumulatively accounting for 74.5% of global exports. • The value in the global importers of rabbit meat was US $ 179.29 million, with the lead importers being Germany (32%), Belgium (27%) and Italy (21%). An important by-product of the trade in rabbit meat is the trade in rabbit furskins which is traded in the global market for the manufacture of felts, hats and belts. The value of the global import in furskins in 2009 was US $ 503.2 million. In sub-Saharan Africa, the two main producers are Nigeria and Ghana and to a lesser extent the DRC, Cameroon and Benin. Rabbit production in Kenya stands at 600,000 nationally. The EPC’s newsletter further revealed that Kenya has only recorded export of rabbit meat to Sudan over the period 2000-2010, with the highest export value being Kshs 0.49 million or US $ 5975 in 2008! This implies that commercial rearing of rabbit meat is confined to the local market and the development of the export of this commodity is in the infancy stages. It could therefore be developed over time with the necessary interest and acceptable returns on investment in the industry. Trading in the lucrative by-product of furskins has not been developed in Kenya due to the small size of the rabbit meat industry.

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Fri, 05/24/2013 - 07:34

Africa namely Farmers Choice and Kenchic respectively, which are both based here in Kenya, have successfully applied this concept of out-breeders alongside their nuclear farms to grow and expand their businesses puppy teething