Charles Musinguzi, a biology and chemistry teacher at Blessed Sacrament SS Kimaya and St. Jude SS Masaka, does not regret why he turned to rearing rats for a side income.
He says he has achieved a lot from rat rearing, a business that is regarded by many as ‘dirty’.
Using money earned from selling Rats, Musinguzi has managed to start a bar and lodge business in Kyazanga town, which is earning him a lot of money.
He has also bought some land in his home village in Rukungiri district using the money he gets from the rats’ project to supplement his salary.
“I laugh at people who kill rats; when you kill a rat you know you have killed money, if you get rats give them to a nearby school because they need them and you earn money,” Musinguzi says.
“I don’t yearn for the salary, I sleep and by the time I wake up in the morning, I find messages on my phone of people ordering for rats. As a biology teacher, I know the value in rats,” he adds.
He is rearing Albino (white) rats in Ntare village, Mbarara city.
What triggered his entry into the business?
Being a biologist, Musinguzi knows the importance of keeping the rats. It was 2010 when he was teaching at St Bernard’s College Masaka, and almost all the schools had none.
It was from that time when he realised there was value in rats and he made a decision to venture into the business.
Shortly after starting the business, he received a call from his friend teacher at Ntare School who asked whether he had rats and by that time he was left with a few, which he supplied to Ntare School and made good money.
This motivated him to make more investment in the project. He started the project with only six rats, which have multiplied to over 700 currently.
Narrating his story, Musinguzi said in 2017, he was the only person with rats in the whole of western and he sold each for sh50,000 and harvested over sh13m, which encouraged him to expand the business.
He was lucky again in 2018, and 2019, to sell more rats during the UNEB exams.
After the COVID-19 lockdown, when schools were opened, he received many calls of people asking for rats. He has taught his family, including his wife Syson Atuhaire, to manage the business in his absence.
What do you need to start
According to Musinguzi, all you need to start rearing rats is to get a cage, which is about from sh80,000-100,000, depending on the numbers you want.
If you want the cage for the producing females, you can have each cage taking up from 20 to 50 rats.
He says cages need to be repaired because when rats are not given feed in time, they eat up the wood.
Musinguzi says rats have a short gestation period. Rats give birth every six weeks when they are well-fed.
He says a rat can give birth to over 15 pups.
Hygienically, they normally suffer from pneumonia if the room is not very clean.
On feeding, he says rats eat and drink at all times.
Every day or after every two days, you must clean the place for those who are very busy, at least clean every two days.
“We give them feeds in the morning with water in well-washed containers and in the evening, we give them feeds such that during the night they can keep eating their feeds,” he explains.
This helps because if one produces during the night, it cannot eat up the young ones.
Musinguzi says they also give them dry grass, which makes them thirsty to drink water and increase in size.
They also feed them on well-dried maize bran mixed with cotton, fish and salt. This diet helps to provide them with liquids, proteins and enough carbohydrates.
“I supply schools in all regions in central, western, northern regions and eastern. People in universities like KIU, Makerere and Islamic University also buy rats from me,” Musinguzi says.
In Kampala, taxi drivers nick-named him “Teacher Owembeba” because he normally transports his rats in taxis and buses.
He, however, says their market varies with demand. During UNEB exams, the market for Rats ranges from sh30,000-sh50,000. In normal teaching for practice, each rat is sold at sh10,000-sh15,000.
Musinguzi says one rat can give you sh300,000 because it will produce between 5-12 young ones.
After the lockdown, he collected only sh4m within one term. On average, he normally earns between sh2.5m and sh4m per term from the rats project.
Musinguzi wants the Government to equip government-aided schools with necessities that can help them have these projects.
He appeals for support to expand his project because he is helping many schools and has supplied some schools with free rats, especially the poor schools. He wants to train people on how to care for the rats but has no funds.