A farmer’s rabbit breeding nightmare

Tendai Chara
Mr Macdonald Madziro, a well-known businessman who runs a thriving farming enterprises some 20km out of Mutare, is deeply regretting his decision to venture into rabbit production.The farmer’s nightmare began when he responded to a newspaper advertisement which called upon farmers to venture into rabbit production.

The association promised him training, technical assistance and markets. After paying the registration fees, Mr Madziro went full-time into rabbit production.

“I initially bought about 100 rabbits, constructed the housing and bought the feeders and the drinkers. Everything was perfect and I had the feeling that I was going to reap where I was sowing,” Mr Madziro said.

Little did he know that he was not going to get any meaningful returns out of the project. Instead, a nightmare that culminated in him losing close to $4 000 was slowly unfolding.

“The problem began when I had raised close to 800 rabbits that were ready for the market. All long the association assured me that they had their own rabbit abattoir and a ready market.

When I made enquiries regarding the market, the person I was dealing became evasive,” added Mr Madziro.

According to Mr Madziro, the fully-grown rabbits were by then gobbling about 150kgs of feed every day and was desperate to get rid of them.

“I placed advertisements in the Press but I only got one or two enquiries. Locals bought few rabbits, leaving me with the rest,” added Mr Madziro.

Trips to Harare where he had been assured of ready markets yielded nothing. “I am very bitter to say the least. These guys assured me of a market but failed to avail it when I needed it. The money and effort I wasted is substantial,” Mr Madziro said.

He has since abandoned the project.

When The Sunday Mail Extra visited Mr Madziro’s farm last week, hundreds of weaning boxes lay strewn everywhere, being exposed to outdoor weather.

He blamed the association that introduced him to rabbit farming for his troubles.

“The association I was dealing with was bogus. All it wanted was my $50 registration fee.

My investigations revealed that some of the people that lead these associations are not farmers but con artists. They just collect money and start off other projects,” Mr Madziro said.

Mr John Mwachipa, a rabbit farmer who resides in Zvimba, Mashonaland West, highlighted some of the problems that the farmers encounter as they seek markets.

“Most supermarkets do not want to deal with ordinary rabbit farmers. Instead, they prefer small-scale and commercial farmers and these farmers must registered to process meat products. This effectively means that smaller players are excluded,” Mr Mwachipa said.

Mr Garisanai Mudzingwa, the president of the Zimbabwe Rabbit Farmers said the industry has been “invaded” by unscrupulous characters.

“There are more than 10 associations that are claiming to be representing rabbit farmers. The majority of the people that are behind the associations are not farmers and do not have even a single rabbit.”

“They simply open up an office, put advertisements in the Press and start to collect cash from farmers. Whilst farmers would be hoping to get money from the rabbits, the bogus organisations will be hoping to make a killing out of the farmers,” Mr Mudzingwa said.

Mr Mudzingwa said his group has 3 000 members, of which between 300 and 400 are the only active members.

He said farmers are failing to satisfy the market. “Only recently, a supermarket chain wanted a tonne of rabbit meat but we failed to supply.

Supermarkets want constant supplies. The problem is that most of our farmers are Doubting Thomases. They want to see the meat on the shelves first before they begin serious production,” added Mr Mudzingwa.

Rabbits are kept in backyards with both small-scale and commercial farmers also been actively involved.

A blog by Hillside Rabbits, a rabbit producing concern, revealed that marketing rabbits can be a bit of a challenge.

According to the blog, there are very few formal markets for rabbits and that most of the rabbits produced in Zimbabwe are sold to family and friends.

In Harare, few butchers and supermarkets stock rabbit. An equally smaller amount of restaurants have rabbit mean on their menu.

Over the years, there has been talk regarding the setting up of rabbit abattoirs. Rabbit meat has been marketed by the Rabbit Breeders and Producers Association of Zimbabwe as “the most nutritious meat known to men”.

Rabbits are being sold for between $8 and $15, depending on the market. They are said to be fast-growing animals which mature early.

Rabbit manure is also used as fertiliser and as a worm-growing medium whilst the skin can be used to make leather while offals make pet food.

Efforts to contact Mr Rawling Koffie were fruitless.

 

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