How Builder a backyard tomato farmer became a prominent rabbit farmer


Let me start by sharing with you a little more about my personal background. I was born in Harare and I grew up in Highfield before we relocated to Bulawayo when I turned 15. I then spent 10 years in Bulawayo and worked for a computer programming company for 5 months before I got retrenched. My 'package' was exactly 800 Rands, and I used it to start my own computer programming company. I relocated back to Harare and spent nearly half a decade there. A close friend advised me to relocate with him to Marondera, citing cheaper rentals and proximity to the capital as the major reasons for choosing Marondera as the best place to settle in outside Harare. I instantly objected advice as I thought Marondera was a hardcore rural area…. I was not going to fathom being labelled a rural growth point folk, never! My friend took time to explain what Marondera was like, well surprisingly I had learnt in Marondera for 2 years, at Waddilove High, but the Methodist-run school is situated at the heart of farms scattered along the Seke-Wedza highway, so that worsened my feeling about the Mashonaland-East provincial capital.

To cut the long story short, my friend managed to convince me to go see what Marondera is like and after visiting the town twice I had decided to permanently relocate, but guess what, he had changed his mind, he no longer wanted to leave the sunshine city anymore, so it meant I had to relocate alone. Since I had made up my mind, I left Harare with my wife, that was 5 month after we got married but exactly 30 days after we started living together as husband and wife. We had our car, our 3 blankets, our clothes and our little pregnancy kikikiki. Anything I didn't mention, most likely we didn't have it. We woke up the next morning, ummm guys, sleeping on the floor was so unbearable, and we rushed to town and bought a double bed and a 2 plate stove. Over the next 3 months we were buying furniture almost on a weekly basis until we decided to buy land. That's when I decided to become a farmer.

I was so lucky that at that time land in Marondera was very easy to get, provided you had enough funds to pay the required deposit and you could get as much land as your fat pockets could permit. You would be given 5 years to pay. I took a risk, got a 1 hectare piece of land, I would face any possible consequences 5 years later, if any, and I was willing to cross the bridge when I get there. Maybe my 6th sense had prophesied that a new law would say all debts incurred prior to February 2019 would be paid in Zim dollar at 1:1. This means it was more than 30 times cheaper to pay debts incurred during the multi-currency era. That's how I managed to become a fully paid up land owner.

I erected 2 greenhouses then started growing tomatoes. Farming books were my best friends, I read so many books until I became a 'bush agronomist'. I grew hybrid tomatoes and was supplying OK supermarket. My challenge was that the piece of land that I got didn't have fertile soil at all. In fact I had to hire a grader to do some landscaping for me first before I could start working on it. So the earth-moving machine buried all my top soil in ditches that sand-poachers had made before I bought this small plot. To correct this 'soil kwashiorkor', I had to buy chicken and cattle manure from nearby farmers. This I did for 3 years until I decided to have my own chickens. I also decided to cut on Calcium Nitrate fertilizer as well as insecticides for my tomato farming project by applying rabbit urine which is rich in both calcium and nitrogen. Unfortunately I didn't know anyone who had the capacity to provide me with 20 litres of rabbit urine every week, therefore I had to harvest my own urine, well, as in my own rabbit urine, so don't be reluctant to eat my tomatoes please, and so I had to venture into chicken farming and rabbit farming.

I joined a few rabbit groups, met Layaan and a few other guys in the groups. I have never trusted what people say in groups, because it's mostly hearsay, I prefer reading books and acquire my knowledge from books. So I downloaded over 10 of the best rabbit farming books. Having designed my first computer program in 2003, it means that I have amassed over 15 years experience in using computers and the internet, so I know how to get any information or resources I want on the internet.

A few days later I went to Mbare, bought a 10-hutch (10-roomed) rabbit cage, I think I parted with around $100. From there I went to Chitungwiza where I bought my first rabbits. They were 8 in total and they comprised of 4 males and 4 females, that's 4 couples. The breeds were, Flemish giants, Cinnamons, Chinchillas a male New Zealand white rabbit and its female Californian counterpart. I remember while buying the rabbits, I was so new to these lovely animals that I was afraid to carry them, I thought they would bite me kikiki. Each rabbit was going for US$10 and they were all about 2 and half months old. In fact I never bothered to ask how old they were, for I was totally lights out that you should know the rabbits' age for future purposes.  Lovejoy, the rabbit breeder who gave me these rabbits was so generous that he gave me about 3 or 4kg of rabbit pellets to go feed my new livestock. I'll always thank him for that because buying feed was the last thing to cross my mind. In fact on that very same day the rabbits were going to sleep on hungry tummies if it wasn't for Lovejoy. I borrowed metal plates from Mrs Builder so that the bunnies could eat their pellets nicely. I took 2 litre ice cream containers, filled them with clean water and placed a granite stone inside so that the rabbits would not easily spill the water.

The next morning I drove my car to a nearby bushy area, in a bid to identify the type of grass that I could cut for the rabbits. When you see me encouraging people to cut African Star Grass and make their own hay, that's where it came from. No one ever told me which grass is good or not good for rabbits, I had never heard such a topic being discussed in any rabbit group until I personally took it upon myself to research om perennial (all-year-round) grasses that are always found in Zimbabwe. I then researched on usage and nutritional values of the grasses that are easily found in Zimbabwe throughout the year. African Star Grass topped the list in almost all the characteristics I was looking for. To save my fellow friends from undergoing the same hassle I endured, I now always share these details in all the rabbit groups that I'm part of.

All was well until around day 18 when one of my Flemish Giants died. But before it died, its stomach had enlarged visibly and the 3-month old rabbit was very unresponsive, weak and not eating. In my mind I new that danger has finally visited my doorstep. I never bothered to ask in the group that had befallen my giant breed because I was afraid fellow farmers would laugh at me and I thought the rabbit would recover, but within 6 hours I had learnt that I was fooling myself. It is that experience that made me read a 341-paged book by Bob Bennet and complete it within 2 weeks. Taking longer to complete the book meant another 'politburo member' would bite the dust, so I had to halt everything else and read the book, fully understand it and figure out what went wrong.

Through that book I learnt that cabbage leaves and instant dietary change had caused bloat which killed my Flemish giant. Through that book I also learnt my rabbits were about 2 and half months old as the book explains the possible ages of rabbits of given breeds. Through the book I also learnt when to breed rabbits, how much to feed them, what to feed them and how to generally care for them. It is the reason why I know by head everything mentioned in that book. I may have forgotten the exact wording used but I know what the book talks about and what it forgotten to teach us. I actually read it twice, am planning to read it again for the third and final time. I have also read other books, and there is one other one I love so much, here and there I often quote what's in that book when I'm trying to support my point with facts.

Armed with knowledge from over 10 books plus experience and the zeal to research whenever an opportunity presents itself, many now find it hard to believe that they have been in the rabbit farming industry for a longer period than me. This also proves that determination and zeal will quickly surpass experience.

I hope I've motivated all those who are desperate for motivation. I'm sorry I don't take visitors unless we first become very close friends for security reasons, but I'm forever willing to share knowledge for free, for we all have our own fair share of strengths and weaknesses.

My name is Builder, I stay Here.

Source: Best Farming Tips