Training Center for Raising Agoutis (Bush Rats)
I am helping a groupement to create a training center for raising agoutis, or bush rats. We will be creating an income generating activity for middle school students with trainings and an animal bank!
I am a PCV currenty serving in the Maritime Region of Togo. My primary project at the moment involves helping a groupement (see attached picture) to create a center where the president of the groupement will train middle school students and members of the community how to raise agoutis, or bush rats.
Agoutis are ranging animal that normally roam the bush of West Africa (see picture 1 below). Villagers often obtain agouti meat by hunting them in the brush using fires, but some individuals have begun raising them in enclosures. Due to their high resistance to diseases and reliance on local crops and grasses for food, they make excellent candidates for improved traditional elevage. Enclosures can be made out of local clay, wood, and straw, which makes raising agoutis an excellent income generating activity (IGA) for rural Africans.
The goal of our project is to create an IGA for middle school students (to pay school fees), members of the community (to support their families), and my groupement (to send our daughters to school and support our other activities) using this training center. The most interesting aspect of the project is the animal bank: we will be lending 1 pregnant female agouti to each participant who completes the training and following tasks, and they will be responsible for returning 2 femalle agoutis after the initial agouti has given babies.
There are 5 steps to the project (see project flow chart below):
1) Construction of Enclosures -We are going to build 25 new agouti enclosures on land and existing wall donated by our groupement (see picture 1 below). The enclosures will house the agoutis in the animal bank and for the groupement. They will be covered by a solid tin roof to prevent humidity, have a ciment floor, and there will be a terrace in front of the enclosures to allow use to easily feed the agoutis using a wheelbarrow. The groupement will be making a financial and material contribution to build clappiers to house agoutis being fattened for sale. To arrive at the quanities of materials necessary, I drew a mapped plan of the future construction, a three-dimensional design of an enclosure, and calculated useful numbers to give to a mason on the Village Development Committee (VDC) who delivered very secure estimates (see attached budget). The mason and carpenter will come from the VDC and at least one member of the groupement will be there to contribute whenever construction is going on. The materials will be purchased from an array of local business to support entrepreneurs.
2) Trainings - My homologue, who is the president of the groupement, has 10 years experience as both an agouti raiser and a volunteer teacher. He will be conducting trainings for middle school students and members of the community (see attached program) where he will give the information most useful for a villager wanting to raise agoutis in West Africa (for example, he will spend a large amount of time teaching techniques for avoiding diseases, but not teach a lot about treatments and medecines because poor villagers have no way to buy these products). Trainings will take place each month in the groupement office with a class every saturday for 4 weeks; each class will be composed of part lecture (for example, how to put together food to feed the agoutis) and part hands-on practice (cutting up grasses and putting together a meal to feed the agoutis in the bank). Only 6 participants will be admitted to each training with the idea that each participant will closely follow and extensively benefit from the training, participate in the agouti bank to begin raising the animals, and at the end sell the agoutis in order to create an IGA for themselves.
3) Tasks and Follow-Up - After completing several tasks and being approved by the instructor, the participants will be allowed to participate in the agouti bank. The tasks are as follows:
- Complete training at our center
- Construct 2 enclosures for agoutis - can be made of clay and straw, must be located in a secure and dry place.
- Equipe each enclosure with a feeding and drinking plate
- Create a program for maintaining the agoutis over 6 months (how often the participant will clean the cages, when and what will they feed the agoutis)
The instructor will make a tour to ensure that tasks have been completed and following approval the participants will be available to recieve an agouti from the bank.
4) Agouti Bank - We will lend participants who have successfully completed the above tasks 1 preganant female agouti to help them begin raising them on their own. Only one agouti will be given to minimize the risk as much as possible, and the participants will sign a contract guaranteeing their responsibility to replace the animal or pay the cost if it dies or is stolen. Agoutis give an average of 6 babies, and the participant will be expected according to the contract to replace 2 female agoutis into the bank (the original and one baby) after 6 months, the time at which agoutis can be recrossed. 50 female agoutis and 12 male agoutis will be bought for the bank, and the main part of these will be used for the agouti bank with a smaller portion reserved for the groupement so we can support the project.
5) Sale - After succesfully starting to raise agoutis, we will help participants to sell their animals, essentially creating an IGA for them from start to finish. The average price for a male agouti, usually for consumption, is 4.000F (~$8) and for a female is, usually as a mother to begin raising animals, is 10.000F (~$20). We have already found clients, in particular a wealthy and important hotel owner in village, who are interested in buying agoutis for restaurants. In this way our project will connect the people at the top of the socioeconomic ladder with the poorer villagers in a sustainable way that is useful for both parties.
My personal goal with the project is to help teach middle school student to raise agoutis, help them begin raising them, and then help them sell them at the end to pay for their school fees. This project has been planned well and I believe it has the potential to greatly benefit my entire community (see attached future projections). Feel free to visit our groupement website at:
Thank you for considering our project and we would appreciate any feedback you might have.
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