Rabbit industry emerges from woods

Oliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter

ZIMBABWE’S rabbit farming has emerged from the woods and may offer vast opportunities for economic empowerment and development in line with Zimbabwe’s rural industrialisation agenda, a senior Government official has said.

The Government has recognised rural industrialisation as key to the attainment of an upper-middle-income society by 2030.

Prior to the formation of the Zimbabwe Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association (ZICOBA) in July 2020, the country’s cuniculture industry had become moribund amid limited support with the only remaining producers being backyard farmers.

Since its formation, rabbit production in the country has undergone significant transformation on the back of a raft of strategies being implemented by the association across the country.

Such strategies include the national rabbit farmer training programme launched on Monday targeting existing and prospective farmers from all 10 provinces of the country.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira who was the guest of honour at the event said: “This landmark occasion is in sync with the ministry’s thrust to support development of new value chains in both cropping and livestock sectors.

“This programme where we are today, dovetails very well with the President’s rural development agenda where we are looking at rural development and our rural development will be spearheaded by rural industrialisation; rural industrialisation which will cause rural development.

“Rabbit farming has emerged as a promising sector within Zimbabwe’s agricultural landscape, offering numerous opportunities for economic empowerment, food security, and rural development.”

He said the establishment of ZICORBA in July 2020 and the launch of the national training programme were great milestones in the journey towards harnessing the full potential of rabbit farming and the development of the cuniculture value chain.

“The development of a well-defined, well-resourced rabbit value chain with requisite skills is essential for maximising the benefits of rabbit farming and the creation of a sustainable industry that can contribute to food security, economic growth, and rural development.

“At the core of the rabbit value chain are the farmers who raise and breed the livestock for meat, fur, and other products,” he said.

The national rabbit farmer training was sponsored by the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe.

Deputy Minister Marapira said collaboration between Government agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organisations, and private sector partners is key to promoting the sustainable development of the rabbit value chain in Zimbabwe.

“By working together to address challenges, share knowledge, and implement best practices, stakeholders can build a strong and resilient rabbit industry that benefits farmers, consumers, and the economy as a whole.

“The training programme we inaugurate today is a testament to our commitment to capacity building and skills development within the agricultural sector.

“Through comprehensive training modules encompassing rabbit husbandry, breeding techniques, disease management, and market access strategies, we aim to equip farmers with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in rabbit farming,” he said.

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe for their generous sponsorship of this training programme.

“The support from our Chinese partners is invaluable, especially considering China’s status as the largest consumer of rabbit meat globally.”

He said China consumes a staggering one million tonnes of rabbit meat annually from which 600 000 tonnes are produced in that Asian country while 400 000 tonnes are imported. In this context, this presents a remarkable opportunity for Zimbabwe to tap into the US$7 billion industry by exporting rabbit meat to China.

“I am pleased to announce that Zimbabwe now boasts one of the largest rabbit abattoirs in Africa, a development that aligns perfectly with ZICORBA’s strategy of exporting rabbit meat.

“Furthermore, I am delighted to learn that local consumption of rabbit meat has been on the rise.

“It is estimated that the local industry has the potential to generate approximately US$2,5 million in earnings annually.

“This recognition of the potential of rabbit farming is why my ministry has included rabbit production in our strategy for small ruminants as outlined in our five-year livestock development plan.”

In 2020, the Government approved the Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan (2021-2026) whose main thrust is to put in place solid interventions to address livestock production and productivity issues.

Deputy Minister Marapira said the Government is reviewing the Agriculture Food Systems and Rural Transformation Strategy where the value of the livestock sector is presently at US$900 million. The aim is to have a US$2 billion livestock sector by next year.In his address earlier, ZICORBA president Mr Regis Nyamakanga commended the Chinese Embassy for funding the national rabbit farmer training programme

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“I would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe for their generous funding of this programme and for their support in providing agricultural experts from China to assist us with technical knowledge,” he said.

He said ZICORBA’s primary goal was to facilitate the transition into the cash economy and uplift the livelihoods of 1,5 million households in Zimbabwe through rabbit farming.

Under the umbrella of ZICORBA, Mr Nyamakanga said significant progress has been made towards achieving this objective.

“Notably, we successfully secured investment for the establishment of the country’s first rabbit abattoir in May 2021, which has since become one of the largest on the African continent.

“This strategic initiative ensures the hygienic processing of rabbit meat, enhancing the quality and safety standards of our produce.

“Furthermore, our comprehensive pure breed rollout programme has significantly boosted rabbit production nationwide, positioning Zimbabwe as a leading rabbit-producing nation in Africa,” said Mr Nyamakanga.

Moreover, ZICORBA has forged strategic alliances with rabbit farming associations across Africa, fostering a collaborative ecosystem conducive to knowledge exchange and mutual growth.

“The future of rabbit farming in Zimbabwe is promising, and we are immensely grateful to the Chinese government for sponsoring our training programme.

“We look forward to an exciting journey ahead and wish all participants a day filled with valuable knowledge and skills,” he said.

Speaking at the same occasion, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe Mr Huang Minghai, said agriculture was a critical pillar of the Zimbabwe and China economies.

“So, we support the development of Zimbabwe’s agriculture and farmers in various ways.

“China is committed to helping Zimbabwe improve the agricultural infrastructure.

“China has helped drill 1000 boreholes across the country up till now, providing access to clean drinking water for more than 400 000 people, and China will drill another 300 boreholes in Zimbabwe in the coming two years,” he said.

Mr Minghai added that his country was committed to strengthening agricultural investment and cooperation with Zimbabwe, and thus of late, many Chinese companies have entered the agricultural sector in the country.

Such firms include Tian Ze Tobacco Company, which is carrying out contract farming in Zimbabwe to promote the development of the Zimbabwean tobacco industry as well as the Chinese Agricultural Technology and Machinery Demonstration Centre which has engaged in technical training in agriculture, cultivation of agricultural experimental fields and promotion of agricultural machinery, with a view to push for agricultural modernisation in Zimbabwe.

He said China’s commitment to enhancing agricultural capacity development for Zimbabwe was also shown through the six groups of more than 40 senior agricultural experts that are already in the country.

 “The Chinese experts will carry out training projects of planting corn, breeding rabbits, pigs and raising chicken, and impart the know-how of agricultural technology to local farmers in Zimbabwe for the coming three years.

“China will implement the Juncao technology project this year, which can help Zimbabwean farmers plant mushrooms and make feeding stuff for cattle,” he said.

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