Made in Jumla rabbit fur caps selling fastThere are around 50 households in Talium and all of them are engaged in rabbit farming, officials say.
Padam Bahadur Rokaya of Talium, Chandannath Municipality-8 got into rabbit farming 17 years ago. He started raising the fluffy animals mainly for their fur and meat.
Now the rabbit farmer from Jumla in western Nepal has 90 bunnies hopping around in his field. Rokaya makes caps out of rabbit fur and sells them to gift shops in Khalanga, the district headquarters.
“Rabbit fur caps have become bestselling items in the district,” said Rokaya. “Demand for rabbit meat is also increasing.”
Rabbit farming, or cuniculture, is catching on in the district. Rokaya’s neighbour Bhairav Bahadur Dharal has around 100 rabbits on his farm.
Like Rokaya, Dharal spends the major part of his day taking care of the animals.
There are around 50 households in Talium and all of them are engaged in rabbit farming, said the Department of Livestock Services in Jumla.
According to the department, each household keeps five to 100 rabbits.
“Rabbit farming has become a reliable source of income for locals,” said Gyanendra Singh Budhthapa, chief of the Department of Livestock Services.
The residents say they earn Rs100,000 to Rs300,000 annually from rabbit farming. Some of the farmers raise rabbits primarily for their fur.
“Rabbit meat sells for around Rs1,000 a kg while a cap made of rabbit fur sells for up to Rs3,500 in Khalanga,” said Dhan Bahadur Rokaya, a local who owns 100 bunnies.
“It's easier keeping rabbits compared to other animals, and demand for rabbit products is also increasing.”
Jaya Kumar Ghimire, chief district officer of Jumla, says rabbit fur caps have become an iconic product of the district. “It is the most popular souvenir for tourists coming to Jumla,” said Ghimire.
Farmers say that the fur collected from two to five rabbits for a month is enough to make a cap. All the rabbit farmers weave the caps themselves and sell them to local gift shops.
Chandannath Multipurpose Cooperative in Khalanga sold around 300 caps for Rs3,500 each last year.
“Demand for fur caps is increasing each passing year,” said Krishi Ram Pandey, manager of Chandannath Multipurpose Cooperative.
The farmers also make extra income by selling baby bunnies to people of nearby villages who want to start rabbit farming.
According to Rokaya, the reason behind the popularity of rabbit farming is that a small investment and simple infrastructure are enough to go into business.
“I make around Rs200,000 a year from rabbit farming,” he said.
Three weeks ago, Bhim Prasad Sharma, provincial Minister for Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives of Karnali, made an inspection tour of the rabbit farms in Talium.
“Rabbit farming seems to have great potential in the region. I will try to bring policy to encourage other farmers in Karnali to engage in rabbit farming,” he said.
Minister Sharma also promised the rabbit farmers to help them market their caps and fur products and buy feed-making machines.
In the last fiscal year, the Department of Livestock Services provided a cash subsidy of Rs128,000 to four farmers to support rabbit farming.
Experts say that the average gestation period of rabbits is 31 days, and they can produce babies throughout the year. They can give birth to seven to 10 babies at a time, and they mature in seven months.
“The productivity of rabbits doesn’t get hampered by climatic conditions, so rabbit farming is suitable for Karnali farmers who lack capital to set up other types of farms,” added Budhthapa.
Experts say the residents of all eight local units in Jumla are engaged in rabbit farming.