Giant bunny rabbits, small loans

By Tara Capsuto, KF13, Kenya

This blog really is about giant bunnies. It’s also about asset financing and how loan groups are working together, with the help of Juhudi Kilimo (one of Kiva’s field partners) to raise rabbits and boost their incomes. Juhudi provides an innovative, agriculture-based, micro-asset financing loan product to assist smallholder farmers in acquiring productive assets such as dairy cows, chickens, irrigation equipment, and most recently, giant Flemish rabbits.

Juhudi Kilimo’s rabbit loans are a great example of a microfinance institution’s (MFI’s) response to local market demands. Juhudi currently has 3 loan groups raising rabbits, in the Murang’a area (in Kenya’s Central Region). They started encouraging clients and potential clients to raise rabbits because a market for rabbit meat has developed in the area over the past couple of years. How Juhudi administers the rabbit loans benefits their clients in several ways.

First, Juhudi works to connect borrowers with suppliers of Flemish rabbits and Ministry of Agriculture officials who provide instruction on rabbit breeding, raising, and slaughtering. Second, Juhudi helps connect the rabbit farming groups with one another. For example, members of the Alpha Option Rabbit Breeders and the Alpha Option Rabbit Fatteners, two loan groups work together on the various phases of rabbit raising, even sharing one “stud rabbit” between the two groups. Thirdly, bunny loans are a great starter loan for first time clients. A client can get started raising rabbits with 5,000-10,000 Kenya shillings ($62 to $124). For both first time and returning borrowers the assets that Juhudi finances act as an alternative form of collateral in case of default, reducing the farmers’ risk of over-indebtedness.  Here’s what one of Juhudi’s rabbit farmers had to say about his experience:

Q & A with Quintino Maina Waithaka, member of Alpha Option Rabbit Breeders Group

Were you raising rabbits before you received your loan from Juhudi? Before my loan, I was raising a lower quality breed of rabbit. Now I raise giant Flemish rabbits, which can grow up to 7-9 kilos  With my loan of 10,000ksh, and a bit of my savings, I bought 5 Flemish rabbits for 3,000Ksh each. The smaller breeds of rabbit cost about half the price but they earn a much lower return at the market.  Flemish rabbits are large enough to sell at the market in 6 months and I can get up to 46,000Ksh ($568) for 1 giant rabbit, or I can sell the rabbits for breeding after 2 or 2.5 months. Before rabbit farming I just kept cows and chickens. Rabbits are much more profitable, and they’re easier to raise because they don’t take up much space and they eat a lot less food.

What have you found most challenging about breeding and raising rabbits? In November, 21 of my rabbits died; I lost of lot of money. I learned from the agriculture officer and a more experienced rabbit farmer that they got too cold. Now I built covers for all of their cages.

You seem to really enjoy the rabbits. Have you gotten attached to any and been unable to sell or slaughter her? Ha! Well, there’s one who has a good character. She was very tiny before so I named her Kanini, which means “little one” and I kept her as a pet.

How would you like to expand your rabbit farming in the next several years?  Will you request another loan from Juhudi? I will build the house of rabbits! I want to build multi-story cages for the rabbits. In the future I’d like to request a loan to buy a water tank for the rabbits, which will allow me to take care of many more rabbits – I’d like to have up to 100, right now I only have 9. I have 6 kids, the youngest is 6 months, and the eldest is 22 years old so I’m just trying to grow my income as much as possible. I always have lots of projects in mind for how I will continue expanding my business.

At the moment,  Juhudi’s rabbit farmers are not posted on Kiva, but they hope to add some in the future.  Watch out for the giant rabbits (and their owners) on Kiva. In the meantime, make a loan to one of Juhudi Kilimo’s clients today!

To learn more about Juhudi Kilimo check out their partner page on Kiva here or watch this short video that explains more about how this innovative organization works.

Click to view slideshow.

Tara Capsuto is a roaming fellow in Nairobi, Kenya nearing the end of her 6-month Kiva fellowship. When she’s not interviewing rabbit farmers she’s eating as many delicious Kenyan mangoes as possible before leaving the country.

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