Tendai Chara
\nRabbit fairs will soon be held throughout the country as the Rabbit Producers Association of Zimbabwe (RPAZ) intensifies efforts to promote rabbit farming. The fairs will also act as a platform to educate consumers on the health benefits associated with rabbit meat. Describing rabbit meat as “the most nutritious meat known to men,” Mr Jonathan Tembo, the RPAZ chairman said rabbit farming is set to grow tremendously.

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“This is one of the many initiatives that we are implementing as we seek to promote rabbit production. The first fair will be held in Harare within the next few weeks and provincial fairs will be held thereafter,” Mr Tembo said.

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The RPAZ has more than 2 000 members. Among the members are those that keep rabbits in their backyards, small-scale and commercial farmers.

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According to Mr Tembo, RPAZ aims to improve rabbit production through empowering the small producers and co-ordinating established commercial producers so as to enhance production standards and quality.

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At the fairs, rabbit breeders will showcase their breeds while consumers will be given an opportunity to taste rabbit meat.
\n“Apart from learning, farmers will also walk away with prizes and will also have the opportunity to mix and mingle with stakeholders such consumers, feed producers, among others,” added Mr Tembo.

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Mr Gift Jambaya, a rabbit farmer who showcased various breeds at the recently held Harare Agricultural Show, is looking forward to participating at one of the fairs.

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“I was at the Harare Agricultural Show and I am fully aware of the benefits that a farmer can get from such fairs. The response that I got after exhibiting at the show was tremendous to such an extent that I ran out of stock,” Mr Jambaya said.

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According to Mr Jambaya, the rabbit breeds that are reared in Zimbabwe include the Californian white, Chinchilla gigantica, Flemish Giant, New Zealand White and the Nyanga type. The breeds vary in body shape, fur colour and behavioural characteristics.

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During the fairs, the farmers will learn a lot about breeds, rabbit nutrition, reproduction, housing, health and diseases as well as the economics of production.

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Rabbit farming, also known as cuniculture, is growing steadily in Zimbabwe since farmers have recognised a gap in the market for the supply of rabbit meat.

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Initially, rabbits were mainly kept for family consumption with some people using them as pets. Few people considered rabbits as a source of income.

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The RPAZ has since launched a nationwide training programme on rabbit production. After this training, members will receive both technical and marketing support.

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Members have access to markets and research articles that keeps them abreast with developments in the sector.
\nAccording to Mr Tembo, rabbit breeding is not capital intensive and has low production costs.

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The RPAZ has arranged the slaughter and packing of rabbit meat at approved and certified poultry abattoirs where the meat undergoes vigorous quality control systems.

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Plans for the establishment of a rabbit slaughterhouse meeting international standards are at an advanced stage since local rabbit meat will also be earmarked for the export markets.