The Ndekero Challenge: A Systems Approach for Rabbit Keeping by a Rural Community in Partnership with a Commercial Rabbit Farm FLAGGED
The Ndekero Challenge is a method for backyard community rabbit keepers to partner with a commercial rabbit farm and to help each other.
This idea was the Grand Prize Winning Idea of the 2009 Africa Rural Connect Competition. Thus, it can not compete in the 2010 competition.
1. Problem/Need, Background and Challenge
Rabbit keeping in Sub-Sahara African countries is often a backyard activity and a hobby for children. Meat is for home consumption and sometimes sold. Young rabbits make an excellent gift to other children. So income generated is insignificant. The scale up of production at home is a major hurdle as it requires investments for building several cages. A female adult rabbit ("doe") will produce an average of 6 young once every two months and takes about 5-6 months before slaughtered. For each doe, about 3-4 more cages are needed for meat production. So keeping a few does means having 3-4 times the number of cages. There are a few small-sized commercial scale rabbit farms that have more than 50 breeding does.
This project has 3 target groups
(i) 200 children at Our Lady of Annunciation Primary School
(ii) the local community and villagers
Nazareth Sisters run a primary school and collect school fees to cover part of the operational costs (children's lunches, teachers' salaries). Yet some parents have difficulty in paying the full fees. A rabbit farm will be established at the 30 acre farm of the Nazareth Sisters to produce 100 kg of rabbit meat every month and to provide up to 10 part-time jobs to poor parents so that their children don't drop out of school. The rabbit farm will raise rabbits in colonies, i.e. in open, vegetated fenced enclosures with mini-shelters. One doe will have access to at least 5 m2 of space.
The rural community do subsistence farming and they welcome any idea on how to generate extra income. Green plant matter is plentiful as grass, weeds, leaves from shrubs and trees. The idea is to involve each family to keep just 2 female rabbits in one large cage. Offsprings will be sold to the Rabbit farm.
The Ndekero challenge is to develop a community rabbit keeping system that can work in partnership with a rabbit agri-business farm.
The objectives are:
(i) to provide part-time jobs to poor parents at the rabbit farm so that their children don't drop out of school
(ii) to assist the rural community in generating income so that each family is able to eat 1 kilo of meat at least once a month,
(iii) to assist the rabbit farm to produce at least 100 kg of rabbit meat every month
(iv) to price rabbit meat so that the poor can afford it
(v) to serve as a model for other villages and cities
2. Required Resources
The Rabbit farm project will have access to at least 1 acre of land at the Nazareth Sisters 30 acre-farm. Funding (pending approval by Dec 2009) for infra-structure and materials/labour will come from the Swedish Catholic Church. ARC contest price money will be used to implement the community rabbit keeping system and to integrate this activity with the Rabbit Farm. The first group will be 50 families. It will recruit both families who already keep rabbits and others who wish to join.
3. Business Case
A family keeping 2 female adult rabbits can get an average of 4 baby rabbits every month. The family need not keep a male since mating can be done with males at the Rabbit Farm. The family can trade four 6-month old young rabbits for 1 kilo of rabbit meat or for an adult rabbit. If the family will build more cages, the Rabbit Farm will help the family to market their adult rabbits.
The first income from the Rabbit Farm is expected in 3 months and after that it will be every month. Initial stock will come from an existing rabbit house at the School (http://www.globetree.org/africa/ndekero) and more pictures at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2111&id=100000175854706) and other sources. The target is to sell at least 100 kg of rabbit meat every month. We will also process the rabbit hides and the women in the local community can make something out of them for sale too.
The rabbit farm will be integrated with fish farming as fish "canals" will be constructed as the second "barrier" against animal predators and to keep the rabbits in the farm. The potential modest income per year from a 1½ acre rabbit-fish farm is about 366,000 Ksh (4,838 US$) per year (from 1200 kg of rabbit meat @180Ksh/kg and 1500 kg of fish @100Ksh/kg).
The fish canal construction will involve the community. Payment of their work will be made in the form of rabbit meat and will also ensure that they can have 1 kilo of meat for each day's of work and to be given once a month accordingly. The Nazareth Sisters manage a large hospital and rabbit meat will be introduced as a health food and white meat. Other consumer markets will be boarding schools where beef is served once a week. A board school with 700 students require about 45 kg of meat per week. "Nyama choma" is a popular un-marinated grilled lamb that is served at about 250-350 Ksh per kg. We intend to marinate rabbit meat and distribute to local road-side grillers that can sell ¼ kg pieces for 75 Ksh. This will give an income margin of 120 ksh/kg. If a road-side griller can sell 3 kg in a few hours of work in the evening, and also fry some fish, this is a good part-time income.
4. Plan and Execution
Kenyan Government has a rabbit program that is supported by its Rabbit Breeding Units,e.g. in Ngong, Nairobi (http://www.globetree.org/africa/assoc-members/murithi.htm ; http://www.globetree.org/africa/miec ). The "Ndekero Challenge" will strengthen this national program by taking it a step further to support commercial scale production with a marketing system. Colony method will be used to raise rabbits in Ndekero. Fish polyculture using 2 different fishes will maximise the use of pond floor space with cat fish and Tilapia. Cat fish also help to keep the population of young Tilapia frys low by predation and this will help adult tilapia to grow larger.
In Meru area, Globetree initiated 3 rabbit projects which keep a population of about 200 rabbits. At 2 sites, their rabbit houses serve as part of their agriculture course curriculum. Nazareth Sisters are also well placed politically in Meru as they manage the biggest hospital in Meru town. Nazareth Sisters work in Kenya and Uganda and is a member of the Association of Sisterhood Kenya (http://www.aoskenya.org) that in turn is connected to the rest of the world.
Rabbit Network Kenya (www.globetree.org/africa/rabbit-net) supports Globetree's 7 rabbit projects and help people to start keeping rabbits in Kenya. The Network has organized e-forums with members of the World Rabbit Science Society (USA) and its Sub-Sahara Branch in Nigeria. These networks will provide the technical and professional advice that the Ndekero project may need.
5. Real World Impact
The Ndekero Rabbit Colony Farm will be the first integrated rabbit-fish system in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is not known if such a system is being used in other parts of the world. The Ndekero Challenge is a method for backyard community rabbit keepers to partner with a commercial rabbit farm and to help each other. In Sub-Sahara Africa it is particularly relevant because it provides a system that encourages additional employment and income to farmers without any external feed inputs. Except for chick wire netting and nails, other materials are locally available. Women and children will benefit directly.
Footnote: Details of the project plans and methods used will be taken up in the forum discussions.
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