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Raymeg gives rabbit farmers a helping hand

At six o’clock in the morning, the widow and mother of two sits down on her front porch, sipping a hot cup of coffee as she admires her flourishing rabbitry.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI SIXTY-SIX-year-old Monica Mudonhi braces for the winter cold as she does her daily routine of replenishing food troughs with pellets and making sure that her rabbits also have adequate water and hay.

At six o’clock in the morning, the widow and mother of two sits down on her front porch, sipping a hot cup of coffee as she admires her flourishing rabbitry.

Looking back at how her journey started with just nine rabbits donated by Raymeg Holdings, a corporate member of the Zimbabwe Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association (Zicorba), Mudonhi is all smiles as her rabbitry now boasts of a handsome 75 animals.

“Having started rabbit farming sometime in October last year, I almost gave up due to lack of knowledge and poor management,” she said, going down memory lane on how she started her rabbitry and the challenges she faced.

“I even lost some rabbits to dogs and that was very frustrating. As a farmer, I thought that rabbit farming would be a stroll in the park, but the practical side of keeping rabbits proved me otherwise,” she said.

Through training offered by Zicorba to its members, Mudonhi turned the tide and started to apprehend the tenets of commercial rabbit farming which was evidenced in the boom of her rabbit stock.

“As the training started to sink in, positive results naturally followed. At one time I got kits from four does at once and this really brought out the rabbit farmer in me. I was so inspired by how my rabbits were responding to the new management style that I had introduced after implementing what I had learnt from training.

“Since then, I have never looked back and I hope to become one of the biggest breeders in Mashonaland East. With the breeding stock assistance that I got from Raymeg Holdings, as well as the continued training and technical assistance that I get from Zicorba, the sky is the limit,” she said.

Mudonhi, who is also the Zicorba Mashonaland East chapter vice president, encouraged budding rabbit farmers to embrace their projects fully as cuniculture had the potential to financially empower them if done by the book.

“I used to treat my rabbit farming business as a hobby, until I met other farmers in Zicorba groups who changed my perspective.

Formed in July 2020, Zicorba has restored confidence in the rabbit production subsector.

Rabbit farming, which has significant potential to generate foreign currency through exports, can also improve food security and nutrition in developing countries.

Global rabbit production is currently estimated at more than one million tonnes per year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Globally, rabbit meat is expected to expand by 2,3% compound annual growth rate to reach 1,8 million tonnes by the end of 2025, according to IndexBox.

There is a potential to export rabbit meat to other African countries and China, which has demand in excess of 400 000 tonnes per year, according to Zicorba president Regis Nyamakanga.

The association said it has received numerous enquiries from Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the supply of rabbit meat.

For instance, Botswana’s Northern Rabbit Breeders Association is looking for about 1,5 tonnes of rabbit meat from Zimbabwe per month to start with.

The Zicorba chief said over the next five years, the rabbit industry could easily generate upwards of US$3 million from domestic sales, driven largely by access to affordable breeding stock, availability of funding, quick gestation period, broad-based participation in cuniculture production across the country, availability of more rabbit slaughter houses and envisaged uptake in consumption due to the health benefits of eating rabbit meat.

The anticipated growth in local and global demand for rabbit meat presents boundless opportunities for local breeders like Mudonhi, to ramp up production and take advantage of the expanding market.

“There is a need to start with the right type of housing, breeding stock and quality feed if one is to enjoy the benefits of rabbit farming. I also encourage farmers to implement bio security measures as rabbits, like any other livestock, are prone to diseases. If you follow this, you won’t go wrong,” she said.

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