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Rabbit breeders association


Rabbits are prolific in reproduction, have a high growth rate and therefore high turnover, require minimal space to keep and meager resources to maintan since they can flourish on forage that is disda





Rabbits are prolific in reproduction, have a high growth rate and therefore high turnover, require minimal space to keep and meager resources to maintan since they can flourish on forage that is disdained by humans i.e. they are not in competition for feed with humans. Their meat is very rich  in protein higher than beef, pork, lamb and chicken and lower in fat and calories per gram. Rabbit meat can therefore be rightfully called a “health meat”. However, little effort has been made in Africa to promote the production and consumption of this affordable source of protein. This project aims at tackling this challenge by establishing a rabbit breeders association. This will commence by a survey to study the production objectives of rabbit farmers in the target areas of Molo and Nakuru districts in the Riftvalley province of Kenya. From this survey, breeding goals for these farmers will be developed according to the traits of economic importance obtained from the farmers through the questionnaire survey. This will be the first phase of the project. The second phase will involve establishing the breeders association and the physical infrastructure required, which will be based in Egerton university as a source of technical expertise and management. Rabbit farmers will then be able to obtain breeding stock bred according to the farmers’ traits of interest. The association will also endeavour to promote consumption of rabbit meat and eliminate any stereotypes against rabbit meat.

Needs assessment

Poverty, food insecurity and therefore malnutrition are still real challenges in Kenya especially among the rural population and the urban population living in slums. Alleviation of poverty and attainment of food security are some of the millennium development goals that Kenya has to meet. Rabbit farming can be one effective objective that can be used not only in Kenya but in Africa to help in achieving these two millennium goals. Rabbits are prolific in reproduction capable of 4-5 births per year with a litter size of about 6-8. This represents about 300kg of meat produced by one doe in a year, assuming an average mature weight of about 2.5 kgs. Under small holder farming, a farmer might keep only four does and one buck which would translate to approximately 1200kgs of meat per year. This could be compared to 3-4 average sized local cows kept by small-holder farmers. Rabbits feed on readily available feed resources and are not in competition with mankind for food. They can be fed on weeds, grass, kitchen waste, grown fodder and even commercial pellets. They do not require a lot of space to keep and can be kept even on the backyard, thus the terminology “backyard rabbit farming”.

Required resources

A breed association runs a breeding programme which describes the production system(s), objective of the system, breeding system and breeds, selection parameters and economic weights, an evaluation system, selection criteria, matings for selected animals, system for expansion and comparing alternative combined program. A survey of the farmers’ production objectives for the development of relevant and sustainable breeding goals is therefore critical. It is then out of the information obtained from rabbit farmers that the objective of the system, breeding system and breeds, selection parameters and economic weights and selection criteria for the system will be established. This process requires not only a survey but qualitative and quantitative data analysis methodologies that will be applied appropriately to achieve all the outputs needed above. The programme will start by involving rabbit farmers from Nakuru and Molo districts and will be based in Egerton university which will assist with some basic facility and technical expertise from the department of animal sciences. Approximately Kshs. 275,000 will be required for the initial survey and study required to commence the project. The physical infrastructural development in Egerton university and eventual introduction of the breeding stock will be undertaken in the second phase of the project. Once the project has kicked off with the farmers’ involvement, the project will be self-sustaining through the revenues obtained from farmers by purchase of breeding stock. Expert management from the department of animal sciences of Egerton university will be guaranteed as the initiator of the project.

Business case

Breeding stock will be obtained from the government rabbit breeding station in Ngong, bred at Egerton university and sourced by farmers. Mature rabbits will be marketed through the rabbit processing plant in Gilgil as well as locally in villages, estates, towns and hotels. The government through the ministry of livestock can be involved in the project by providing extension services to the rabbit farmers in conjunction with Egerton university’s Animal sciences department. Focus on value addition can also be considered later once the association is up and running with the farmers involvement.

Plan and execution

As mentioned before rabbit farmers from Nakuru and Molo districts will be will be interviewed using questionnaires to establish the following:

·         the purpose of keeping rabbits in low-input/backyard systems,

·         to comprehend the production constraints and challenges in low-input/backyard systems,

·         assist in establishing the relative importance of both physical and socio-economic benefits to farmers rabbits,

·         to understand the rabbit attributes that farmers consider to be of basic importance, and traits of economic importance and

·         to determine the breeding programmes in existence for broiler rabbits and quantify their contribution to genetic improvement in the rabbit populations in Kenya.

Various data analysis methodology will be applied to determine farmer prioritized traits of economic importance, their economic values and thus breeding goals will result. The following are the planned activities in the first phase of the project:

·         Analyzing production objectives and breeding practices

·         Estimating economic values

·         Evaluating the influence of EBVs on genetic improvement

Once this first phase of establishing the farmers production objectives and breeding goals is complete, then the second phase of developing the physical infrastructure in Egerton university and introducing breeding stock will follow depending on availability of funds. Farmers will then be able to obtain breeding stock bred according to their production objectives from the University. Through extension and feedback from farmers, and expert management from the university the programme will be able to run successfully and will be sustainable.

Real world impact

On a wide scale, this project will tackle three of the Millenium Development Goals namely poverty reduction, food security and health. Smallholder farmers who will engage in this project will improve their income through the sale of rabbit and rabbit meat as well as pelt. Food security among these smallholder farmers will be enhanced since they will be able to produce enough rabbit meat not only sell but also to consume. One rabbit will sufficiently provide meat for an average African family for a day without the risk of it going bad due to lack of refrigeration. In terms of health, rabbit meat has more protein and less calories and fat per gram than beef, pork, lamb and chicken meat and can be rightfully called a “health meat” as it has less chances of depositing excess cholesterol in the human consumer. All these three goals are also synergistic to the goal of education since with reduced poverty, there are increased chances of children being educated due to availability of financial resources required. Neither a hungry child nor a sick or malnourished one can be well educated. This project will therefore eventually result in reduced poverty, more food security, better health and a more educated African child.

By Cliford O. Were.


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