MsTimbuNtjenje, 43, has found a niche in the rabbit production business.This is despite frustration of losing her job after being involved in a road accident in 2011.She said she lost her job as a heavy-duty driver after injuring her spine, but she had a family to take care of, so she opted to do rabbit production because it did not require much labour.

MsNtjenje revealed in an interview that she had to do research from the internet and read books to acquire the knowledge she needed.

Through the help of the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund officials and the social workers, she explained that she was enrolled in the poverty eradication programme so that she could do something to sustain her life.Even though it took some years to get the stock and materials to start her business, she finally got them towards the end of 2017.

MsNtjenje said though the materials were not complete, she could start her project, revealing that she was given 11 rabbits, 10 does and a buck, the structure and cages.
"My package came with a shortage of nest boxes and due to financial constraints, I did not manage to buy them, three months later I lost 50 kids and that was a huge set back," she added.

However, she said her business survived the hardships and she now has 36 rabbits; three California, two New Zealand Red and 31 New Zealand White.She said her customers are mainly farmers, individuals (who sometimes want to keep them as pets).
Ms. Ntjenje said she also slaughtered for customers for consumption and sold the pelt to individuals going into business."Rabbits skin can be used to make fur goods like clothing, hats and handbags," she highlighted.

She noted the advantage of being involved in this business was that rabbits matured quickly and multiplied fast, offering opportunity for one to quickly recover costs and investments in a short period of time.

Ms. Ntjenje further said rabbits werenot easily attacked by diseases therefore they were cheap to maintain."This is a relief because all I have to do is to keep a clean environment so that they do not attract mice and feed them properly so they grow well," she added.

She, however, highlighted a challenge of expensive feed, but noted that she supplemented the pellets with the vegetables she grew in her backyard garden.She added she also used their urine and waste as manure in her garden.She said the other challenge was lack of market, noting that the profits were low.
Through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, Ms. Ntjenje said she managed to reach a wider audience to advertise her business and had been getting a positive response.

She added that by attending workshops and exhibitions, she managed to network and benchmark with those in the same business.To her, rabbit production did not benefit her as a business only, she revealed that she had developed a relationship with the animals.

"They are like my children, I check them every day when I wake up and when I go to bed in the evening," she said.Furthermore, she said the animals had been part of her healing process, as touching their soft fur, cleaning and feeding them gave her peace of mind.

MsNtjenje wished for her business to grow and be successful and to have a wider market, saying that rabbit meat was known to be nutritious and good for health.
She said some studies had revealed that rabbit meat contained less fats and cholesterol, which was known to contribute to the growing rate of heart diseases and other health complications.

Therefore, the meat could also be used as a substitution of poultry and fish."I have already started an association in the north region and have 12 subscribers and still counting, and we are going to come up with ways to be able to expand and sell our rabbits better to make desirable profits," she added.

Ms. Ntjenje also encouraged other poverty eradication programme beneficiaries to be focused on changing their lives and meeting the government halfway.

Source: Botswana Daily News