- From as little as Shs450,000, Uhuru Sserubiri has in a space of three years managed to build a rabbit farm which today is estimated worth Shs300m. He encourages university graduates to get into rabbit rearing, writes Gillian Nantume.
- value addition. Along the way though, as their vision expanded, they began looking up ways to add value to rabbit farming.
According to Sserubiri, the dream was becoming a reality: “We started looking at processing the meat and skins and setting up a processing plant to turn rabbit waste into pesticides and organic manure.” At the end of 2016, they bought two acres of land at Shs30m in Namayumba, and in January 2017, they moved the farm once again. Currently, work has already commenced on the slaughter house.
Amilcar Cabral Rabbit Farm sits on two acres in Namayumba, Wakiso District.
The structure housing the rabbits is clean, and workers are busy putting in place rabbit cages, while the CEO, Uhuru Sserubiri, supervises their work.
The farm, surrounded by vast swathes of land, has two offshoots; Kampala Grilled Rabbit and My Farm, an App available on Google Play Store.
In 2014, during the last meeting of the Guild Council at Kyambogo University, Sserubiri, as the minister of International Affairs, was given a sitting allowance of Shs450,000.
He kept the money and later that year, completed his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering degree.
“I did not want to be employed,” he says, continuing, “I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. So I weighed a number of startup projects, but I wanted something that was not expensive to maintain and had the potential to grow.”
Taking into consideration the reality of the Ugandan youth – jobless, no money, and no land – he settled on a rabbit project.
“I could rear them in my father’s garage. They did not make noise, were not dirty, and did not have a bad smell. I bought 10 breeders – seven female and three males – from an Indian farmer in Masaka,” he explains.
As a novice, Sserubiri reveals the first year involved experimentation and research. The death of a kitten (young rabbit) meant spending days on the Internet, researching about the cause.
“It was trial and error but I was very optimistic. I had the rabbit cages made locally, from wood. I used to make profits selling rabbit urine as manure at Shs3,000 per litre. Every little money I got, I reinvested in the business, buying feeds,” he says.
In 2015, Sserubiri invited two friends to join him – a lawyer and a mechanical engineer. Today, all are equal partners. “I wanted to galvanise capital. It is better running something collectively than as an individual,” Sserubiri says.
Moving out of the garage
By the end of 2015, the farm had 40 breeders. The rabbits would multiply and the partners would sell them off and reinvest the proceeds in the business. At the beginning of 2016, they bought a 100x100 piece of land in Nansana and established a farm.
“We were not yet in the meat market at that time because we were still accumulating breeders. Our target was to have 50 breeders so that we could – at every production cycle (two months) have 350 rabbits. On average, a rabbit produces seven young ones per production cycle,” he says.
Shifting the farm meant upgrading the cages. “Wooden cages are expensive to make, not hygienic, and have a short lifespan yet rabbits multiply very fast and in a cycle I could have about 500 rabbits. In May 2017, we imported 10,000 wire cages from China at Shs40m. For hygiene purposes, the cages are raised high above the ground,” he says.
The rabbit feed (pellets) was purchased from NUVITA Feeds and the rabbits would go through a sack (Shs76,500) every day. To reduce on feeding costs, the trio have bought machines to produce their own feeds and plan to start off at the end of this month.
As the farm grew, Sserubiri realised there was no ready market for rabbit meat and it would be an uphill task convincing Ugandans to embrace rabbit meat. With assurances of buying rabbits from other rabbit farmers, they launched Kampala Grilled Rabbit on February 11, 2017. Their aggressive marketing on Facebook paid off and soon, their biggest challenge was to sustain the demand they had created.
My Farm App
Rabbit farming requires intensive record management and sometimes Sserubiri would forget such important things as putting a nest box in the cage of a breeding rabbit. Sometimes, this would lead to the death of kittens from exposure. This led the trio to innovate the My Farm App, which has four sections – breeding, mating, litter, and expenses.
At each stage, the name of the breeders, cage number, identification number, sex, breed, number of kittens produced, age, and weight are recorded. The same goes for the newborn kittens. Currently 1,180 rabbit farmers are using the App. “The farm manager keeps on updating the system and the farm owner can access it on his or her phone. The information is also connected to the phone calendar. We are also planning to develop microchips to insert into the rabbits. They will be connected to the App.”
In rabbit farming, managing diseases is all about prevention. “We do not have vaccines and there are no veterinary doctors specialising in rabbit health in Uganda. The best alternative is to maintain hygiene and provide good feeds.” Currently, the farm has 80 breeding female rabbits and 20 breeding males, which have a capacity to produce 560 rabbits per production cycle. Their target is to have 250 breeding females by June 2018.
The entire enterprise – the farm, Kampala Grilled Rabbit, and My Farm, all of which run autonomously – has 10 employees. According to Sserubiri, the farm makes Shs7m profits per month through the sale of meat and breeders.
Kampala Grilled Rabbit makes a gross profit of Shs3m per month. The trio are planning to begin charging $4 (Shs14,500) per month for My Farm App.
Advice to graduates
Sserubiri advises graduates to go into entrepreneurship and self-employment. “Rabbit farming does not require a lot of capital. Even Shs1m is enough to start you off with about eight rabbits.
If you do not have the money, seek partnerships with friends who have the funds,” he explains. rom an initial capital of Shs450,000, Sserubiri says the entity is now worth Shs300m.