Standing next to his rabbit cages in Mtopanga, Mombasa County, Nathaniel Mwaringa wipes out some raindrops from his face.
It is drizzling when we meet, but he is undeterred as he checks on the animals.
Mwaringa, who studied at the Mombasa Secondary School for the Physically Handicap, says he started the business with the help of his brother, Samuel Munga.
He bought for him six rabbits, five does and a buck for a total of Sh18,000 in late 2016.
He also funded the construction of a three-storey structure made of wire mesh and wood, hosting 42 cages at Sh120,000.
By April last year, Mwaringa had over 30 bunnies aged four months, which he sold at Sh1,000 each making Sh30,000.
“I sold the rabbits through Justin Magiri, a large-scale rabbit farmer,” says the 30-year-old.
The farmer buys the animals from other small farmers and sells them to high-end restaurants, supermarket and butcheries in Mombasa.
Mwaringa further sold some 25 more rabbits during last year’s Mombasa International Agricultural Show with the help of Magiri.
But as the business was steadying, in December his animals were attacked by coccidiosis, a disease that leads to constipation, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite. He lost some 30 young animals.
However, despite the loss, he has picked up again, and is readying to sell more, thanks to the ready market.
“A rabbit consumes an average of 100g of pellets daily, which is minimal with a 50kg bag costing Sh1,600. I also offer them salt lick, water, hay and dry vegetables leaves.”
Ruth Wanja Shutu, a farmer in Kilifi County, also sells her animals through the established market. She has 10 mature rabbits currently after selling 10 recently through Magiri. A mature live rabbit fetches Sh3, 000 while a kilo costs about Sh650, says Shutu.
Rabbit Meat Supply
Magiri says he supplies rabbit meat to La Veranda, Italian Restaurants at the Coast, with the 10 carcasses inspected by a vet every week. Naivas Supermarket entered into an agreement with Milly Mag, the name of his farm, to get 40 rabbits per week for the Ukunda and Nyali branches since 2016.
The farm gate price per kilo of rabbit meat is Sh650. Other products he sells are rabbit urine at Sh100 per litre and 1kg of manure sh50 per kilo.
Magiri says he has provided market for rabbits for 14 farmers based in Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Nairobi and Nakuru counties.
The 2008 Bachelor of Commerce graduate in Finance at Kabarak University says he is working on a website to widen his market.
He ventured into the agribusiness in 2014 when he realised there was a demand for rabbit meat at the Coast.
With Sh836,000 capital accumulated from his savings, he constructed six cages. Now he has 130, which house his 202 rabbits, 84 does, 11 bucks and 107 weaners.
“The farmers and I keep Chincilla, New Zealand white, Flemish giant, California, Dutch, Kentucky, Kenyan white and Fransk vender breeds.”
Magiri says cages should be cleaned regularly and the rabbits should be shielded from direct wind and rain, which cause pneumonia.
“In November 2017, I sold 48 mature rabbits to Bomu Health Centre at Sh3,000 each to be supplied to their farmers,” says the farmer, whose gross sales from urine, manure, live breeds and meat were over Sh1 million in 2017.
James Kaingu of Kwetu Training Centre in Kilifi County says they train women on rabbit farming for empowerment and have a ready market from Milly Mag Farm.
“We sell mature rabbits for meat but he weighs them in kilo for his profit. We cannot complain about the market, there is potential in the industry.”
Dr Francis Maina of Mombasa Animal Clinic says housing is key in rabbit farming to prevent diseases.
“The animals are prone to diseases such as Pasteurellosis which causes snuffles, and pneumonia. In Mombasa, rabbits suffer mostly from intestinal and liver coccidiosis and mites, which are treated by applying sulphur based drugs.”