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Keep the rabbits, I source for market

Saturday April 5 2014

Mr George Kibanya (right) assisted by Mr John Mutonga vaccinates a rabbit suffering from a skin disease at his farm in Kiambu. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI

Mr George Kibanya (right) assisted by Mr John Mutonga vaccinates a rabbit suffering from a skin disease at his farm in Kiambu. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI NATION MEDIA GROUP

MACHARIA MWANGI
By MACHARIA MWANGI
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The vehicle is slow on the murram road as the driver evades a huge pothole in this part of Naivasha.

It had rained and the road is bad but the occupants of the vehicle are not deterred. They must reach their destination, the home of a farmer who rears rabbits. One of those in the vehicle is Mr George Kibanya, a leading rabbit exporter.

On this day, Kibanya is visiting one of the farmers he has contracted to supply him with rabbits.

Soon, they arrive at their destination. After Kibanya exchanges pleasantries with the farmer, they settle down to business.

Kibanya, himself a rabbit farmer and exporter, engages in contract farming under Alcare Kenya Limited, a company he owns.

The entrepreneur, who is based in Kikuyu, Kiambu County, has engaged farmers in 17 counties. They buy Dorwan rabbits from him affordably, rear and later sale to him for export.

There are various levels of contract farming under Kibanya’s entrepreneurship. These are bronze, silver, gold, platinum and county agent.

Bronze is the lowest level. “The farmer buys a minimum of six mature rabbits, five pregnant females and a male. The total cost is Sh45,000. He then constructs 15 hutches.” 

A silver farmer purchases 10 pregnant does and two bucks and builds 24 cages, with 12 cages spared for weaning. The gold farmer is supposed to buy 20 pregnant does and four bucks, and builds 50 cages. Similarly, the platinum farmer purchases 50 animals, 40 does and 10 bucks and builds 100 cages for the bunnies.

And lastly, the county agent buys 100 animals, 70 pregnant females and 30 bucks. He builds 200 standard cages. “We encourage them to take insurance cover for the rabbits from the onset so that if one dies or is stolen after 30 days, Alcare Limited will replace it,” he adds.

MARKET IN CANADA

Kibanya buys from farmers a rabbit weighing a kilo at an average of Sh500. “I ship the products monthly to Canada. Normally, it is an average of six tonnes, which earn him about Sh1 million.” So why does he export his produce to Canada?

“When I began rabbit farming in 2008, I travelled to Canada where I realised the Dorwan breed was doing well. I imported the initial stock of over 2,000 animals, does and bucks.” The breed was being championed by Dorwan International, a church organisation based in Canada that deals in rabbit meat exports.

In 2010, Dorwan International appointed his firm to spearhead the farming of Dorwan rabbits in Kenya and sell to them. “The firm initially wanted me to supply 100,000 pieces of frozen rabbit each month but I could not meet the demand. I negotiated the figure to 1,000 pieces,” says Kibanya, who still keeps rabbits despite contracting farmers.This is what pushed him into contract farming.

Mr Samuel Mburugu, a contract farmer under Alcare, says rabbit farming is the ‘next big thing’ because of ready market.

“Marketing has always been a challenge, but with ready market from Alcare, the risk of market loss is minimised,” says the young farmer.

Dr John Kariuki, Naivasha’s Kenya Agricultural Research Institute centre director terms contract farming as a “fairly new concept in Kenya”.

“Contract farming is mostly done overseas. If not well-executed, there are loopholes for possible exploitation by the different parties.”

Contract farming, according to Kariuki is often confused with contract marketing, noting that what is practised in the country is the latter.