Rabbit production in low-input systems in Africa: situation, knowledge and perspectives – A review

S.O. Oseni, S.D. Lukefahr

Abstract

High poverty levels continue to plague much of Africa despite several intervention strategies aimed to stem the tide. The role of small livestock like rabbits as a tool in poverty alleviation programmes has been acknowledged for decades and successful national rabbit projects have clearly been demonstrated in Africa. With rising poverty levels across Africa, the need to rejuvenate such national rabbit projects for long-term sustainability becomes apparent. This presentation focuses on the status of rabbit production in Africa, with special attention to smallholder rabbit project development and its connection with poverty alleviation issues in the continent and with an emphasis on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and barriers to the system. A special case is made for the sustainable development of smallholder, low-input rabbit production systems in Africa on account of their popularity, low investment requirements and low economic risks, as well as their contributions to family nutrition, income generation and gender empowerment. Successful rabbit projects in several countries across Africa were identified and the reasons for success, as well as lessons learned, are discussed. In all, several cases standout: the National Rabbit Project of Ghana, the Heifer Project International Rabbit Project in Cameroon, and CECURI Rabbit Project in Benin Republic. Other fast-paced and moderately developed rabbit industries (e.g. in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria) are recognised. Critical constraints to rabbit project development (e.g. non-implementation of sustainable models for low-input rabbit units and absence of client-focused research and development programmes) are noted. Prospects for the development of sustainable smallholder rabbit production models are discussed, which include the following: a paradigm shift among researchers to focus on innovative research related to the development of sustainable backyard rabbit production systems; upscaling of sound practices in smallholder rabbit units across regions; use of local value chains in smallholder rabbit development and setting up regional networks of smallholder family rabbit projects. The actualisation of these goals requires a sustainability research agenda that focuses more on backyard rabbit farmers as the primary beneficiaries. Overall, the need for a poverty focus and a pro-poor research agenda involving owners of backyard rabbits are emphasised.

Keywords

rabbits; research and development; smallholder units; low-input systems; poverty alleviation; Africa

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