Himalayan Rabbit Farm: A Social Start-up

16 July, 2020

Ujjwal Chapagain, managing director of The Himalayan Rabbit Farm took up the risk of leaving a secure job and entering into an unchartered business terrain of commercial rabbit meat production. Such a business is still little known about across the country. When Chapagain thought of it as a business venture, he was questioned more than assured to take the risk. But he succeeded. 

He thought that a small risk taken could help in the sectorial as well as his personal growth. In the very beginning, he had decided his business venture will be a social enterprise rather than a purely commercial. Established in 2012, the venture has provided 100 small farmers with an extra source of income in the form ofrabbit farming.Along with that six farmers have been producing rabbits on a larger scale, following the footsteps and guidelines of Chapagain.

Chapagain was a jobholder in the non-governmental sector. He left the job and invested all his savings in starting up an organic vegetable shop at Jhamsikhel and an integrated farm in Bhaktapur in partnership with some friends. Unfortunately, the project did not succeed, the cause of which he alludes to lack of teamwork with his business partners. After this, he found himself at the crossroads forced to choose between doing business and reverting to being a jobholder. He decided to stay.

He explored various business prospects and finally decided to start rabbit farming. He took the decision after figuring out that rabbit meat had high demand in the market, as it had remained unnoticed as a livestock farming option and therefore had no substantial competitors. Besides that, another major reason, which attracted his attention, was the fact that rabbit meat is considered to be healthy food and as people were being oriented towards healthy meat options, he thought that he could cater to this consumer sentiment. 

After finalizing his new business idea, Chapagain faced the problem of capital shortage. As he had spent all his savings in the previous venture, the only option left to him was borrowing from a bank. Considering the failure of his earlier business venture, it was hard to convince family members to put up family land as collateral for acquiring bank loan for his new venture. He convinced them and he acquired a bank loan and started rabbit farming in partnership.

The company has around 500 rabbits at its rabbit farm in Balambu, Kathmandu. For breeding, there are around 100 females. It is planning to upgrade the existing breeding centre into a modern one for breeding high yielding rabbit breeds. Presently, it procures 300 to 400 kilograms of rabbit meat every month from farmers situated in different parts of the country. Chapagain says that this quantity is consumed in the market, which primarily consists of hotels and restaurants. 

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Within two years, Himalayan Rabbit Farm has succeeded to put rabbit meat as an option on menus. The success stems from the fact that people, who have tasted it, have loved it. Chapagain feels that interest towards the meat has been growing and he has been continuously working to boost it. To increase customer attraction and establish rabbit meat eating culture, the company had provided free tasting samples to visitors of Food, Drinks and Hospitality Exhibition held in September this year.The company has been working on innovating rabbit meat dishes in association with Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM), so that hotels and restaurants could replicate them.

On the social side, Chapagain has been constantly working with local farmers to help them in rearing rabbits and thereby generating additional household income. The company provides training on rabbit keeping, managing and shade building for rabbit farming to farmer, among other support. 

As of now, farmers in Mayagdi, Rasuwa, Sindhuli, Dolakha, Nawalparas and Kathmandu have taken up rabbit farming. He says that famers from other areas have been also showing interests.

In the past two years, Chapagain has made a huge leap in introducing a totally new area to livestock farming in Nepal and now he wishes to establish rabbit farming as a national programme, similar to that of pig, goat and poultry farming. Along with this he wishes to make rabbit meat easily available in the market for purchase. To this end he has plans up his sleeves to set up outlets for selling rabbit meat products in places with higher market volume