The Himalayan Rabbit came into being in 2012 after its founder, Ujjwal Chapagain, a MSc student of Environment Management found a sustainable business model in commercially rearing rabbits for its meat.
ujjwal-chapagainIt took him one million rupees and five ropanis of leased land in Balambu, Kathmandu and 25 young rabbits bought from Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NAST) to start his enterprise. Today the farm has around 500 rabbits and is expanded to an area of 25 ropanis.
It was difficult in the beginning as this was a new type of meat for Nepali consumers despite the health benefits associated with it. He visited many restaurants and eateries and offered them the meat sample. Delices de France was the first to buy two kgs of meat at Rs 750 per kg. There has been no looking back since. Today, rabbit sekuwa (skewered and barbecued meat) is a popular item in the menu of various restaurants in Kathmandu. Currently the farm supplies 300 kgs of rabbit meat a month. The meat is said to be protein rich, having less cholesterol and healthier. It sells at Rs 850-Rs 900 per kg.
Chapagain explains the economies of scale, “Rabbit meat has 4 percent fat level while in mutton it is 28 percent. There is no skin in rabbit meat while 8 percent of mutton is skin. If we calculate, you are paying Rs 238 for fat and Rs 68 for skin in mutton while you are paying only Rs 34 for fat in rabbit meat and it has no skin.â€ He further says, “This is white meat and diabetics, asthma and heart patients can benefit from it, according to the findings of an international researchâ€.
Chapagain has met with huge success and his product is in high demand. Now his farm has started to conduct commercial rabbit farming training in Makade of Rasuwa and some villages of Nuwakot, Myagdi and Dolkha. 250 farmers have already benefited from those trainings. The commercial viability, he points out, is that it does not require huge investments, modern technology nor any specialised manpower.
“In Makade, people have already developed a taste for rabbit meat while Chinese from nearby bordering areas reach there to buy rabbit meat,â€ shares Chapagain. Rabbit farming has given Chapagain an international exposure as well. Recently in China, along with an American Professor, he presented a paper during the World Rabbit Conference highlighting on how rabbit framing could help better address food security in developing nations. He is also working to improve breeding so that one day he can establish his farm as an export center.
On the national level, Chapagain is aware that not even 0.05 percent Nepalis have till date tasted rabbit meat. But he has recently opened a restaurant in Kathmandu to engage more customers.