When Maureen Wanyaga graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human resource five years ago, the biting lack of jobs was not her concern. Working as an employee at a desk from eight to five was not her cup of tea.
Ms Wanyaga knew she would venture into business, but she was not clear yet on what kind of enterprise she would go into.
After soul-searching and racking her brain, she settled on rearing rabbits.
The venture drove her to quit the comfort zone of her parents’ home in the city to a village in Nyeri County where she established her business. And as they say, the rest is history.
The venture has rapidly grown and she now has at least 1,000 animals.
But what made Ms Wanyaga, who to her village mates is too beautiful to soil her hands, to choose such a business?
The 29-year-old told Enterprise that her love for rabbits dates back to when she was in high school. Then, her guardian would frequently bring home rabbit meat.
“After enrolling in campus, I knew I wanted to start a business but I was not sure which one,” she says.
As she pondered on what kind of business she would do, she started vending lollipops in campus. After a while and with support from her elder sister, she bought her first motorbike that would help her run her business errands. She used the bike also to commute from home to the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology where she was studying.
When she was leaving university, she had bought three motorcycles from her business, and had saved at least Sh50,000, an amount that helped her set up the rabbit business.
“I graduated in 2015 and as I was trying to get a footing in after-school life, I started looking for a job. I tarmacked for six months, but did not secure a job,” she said, adding that this is when she started getting serious about rearing rabbits. She began with five bunnies at their Kahawa Sukari residence on the outskirts of Nairobi, and within six months the rabbits had multiplied to 60.
“I realised they are fast breeders and saw an untapped opportunity,” she says.
With the prospects of the business looking good, she decided to relocate her new venture to her rural home in Muthinga, Tetu Constituency.
“Doing business in Nairobi is very expensive. So I decided to move and do my business in Tetu,” she notes.
Just after relocating, a major problem hit; she lost almost half of her rabbit brood after a mongoose killed the bunnies. Despite this setback, Ms Wanyaga soldiered on.
She was encouraged by the fact that the rabbits grow fast and their production costs are low, especially at the rural home where she had set up the venture.
One female rabbit can produce between eight to 11 bunnies at once.
The challenge, however, is that majority of people have not embraced consumption of rabbit meat in the country. So far, Ms Wanyaga has managed to penetrate small joints in Nyeri town. She is fervently preaching the ‘gospel’ of rabbit meat, far and wide.
She encourages residents to consume the meat, which has a higher nutritional value compared to red meat.
Health experts say rabbit meat is rich in proteins, iron, phosphorous and has low calories that make it beneficial to people living with non-communicable diseases.
Ms Wanyaga sells a kilo of rabbit meat at Sh1,000 and a live rabbit costs between Sh3,000 and Sh5,000 for breeders.
She rears six breeds — New Zealand, California White, Dutch, Flemish Giant, Checkered and Palomino.
Her daily routine involves disinfecting the rabbit cages and pots used to feed them.
“It is important to use disinfectants in the rabbit units to keep the ammonia stench at bay and kill bacteria and fungi,” she advises.
Rabbits are mostly affected by extreme changes in weather patterns, hence the need for farmers to treat the animals against cold-related diseases throughout the year.
Ms Wanyaga’s immediate plan is to grow her farm from the current 1,000 to 5, 000 rabbits this year.
She also sells rabbits’ droppings and urine as manure, which is considered the best for organic farming.
She sells 300 kilos of manure to farmers at Sh5,000 and Sh50 per litre of urine. In a day she collects 2,000 litres of urine, which is used as pesticide by local farmers.
The main challenge in rabbit keeping venture is the cost of feeds, with a 50 kilo of commercial feeds selling at Sh2, 200.
She intends to attract investors to help her expand her rabbit farm.