Jean D’amour Rucamihigo is a teacher at St John’s Primary school in Nyagatare and a farmer who started a rabbit rearing project as a side business to supplement his salary.
His ambition was to venture into an agribusiness sector where he could train young people for them to be self-reliant.
After completing his Bachelor’s in Education at the University of Rwanda in 2014, he researched about the kind of business that required little capital to start.
In 2016 after training, he started a rabbit farming with capital of Rwf 8000, rearing eight rabbits on a small farm in Nyagatare District.
He had a chat with Business Times’ Joan Mbabazi about his journey in the venture.
What led you to start this kind of business?
I chose this project of rearing rabbits because it requires low capital and rabbits grow fast as they reproduce every month. Feeding the rabbits is also relatively cheap as they feed on normal grass and do not necessarily require buying feeds.
Tell us about your triumphs in the venture
I have been able to buy three hectares of land, constructed two houses for rent, my business has five branches in five districts of Rwamagana, Matimba, Kayonza, Kicukiro, and Bugesera districts.
I started “One child, two rabbits programme” in Kayonza District where I have so far distributed 1,500 rabbits to the youth, especially girls who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancies. This project motivates them to join agribusiness and earn some money to cater for their necessities and avoid idleness that would tempt them into drug abuse and other weird behaviors.
I sell both rabbit meat to hotels, restaurants and individuals daily. I also sell rabbits to farmers. I have since employed 26 people and hope to create more jobs as the business expands.
At the moment, I have about 1,800 rabbits at the farm.
What are some of the hardships you have encountered?
Some seasons are not favourable for rabbit feeds; there are also many diseases that affect rabbits. It’s quite expensive to treat them and some of them end up dying. Transporting the rabbits to the customers is also a bit expensive.
What are your future plans?
In 2019, I am planning to start “Orora urukwavu programme” in the Northern Province, which will train people about rabbits rearing at their homes. I also plan to grow my business to cover different areas in Kigali.
About how many rabbits do you sell per month and how much is each?
I sell 150 rabbits per month. One rabbit cost Rwf 4,000 while one kilogramme of rabbit meat costs Rwf 2,500.
Apart from rearing rabbits and teaching, what else do you do?
Well, I also grow crops such as Irish potatoes, maize, and vegetables where I use rabbit excrement as fertilizer.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting up a rabbit business?
You don’t need much capital to start. You can even start with three rabbits because they will produce after 30 days. Start small until you have established customer relationships. Initiate a ready market right at the start, find a mentor or join a group of rabbit farmers where you can get ideas as a new farmer about how to feed, look after the rabbits, setting up cages, favorable weather conditions, among others.
Choose the right- sized cages. Don’t overcrowd the rabbits as it might cause stress and health risks among other problems. Keep the environment and the feeding apparatuses clean to avoid coccidiosis (common disease among rabbits).
All in all, have a purpose and vision for the business. Customer care is essential. Don’t rush into making profits at the beginning.