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Promoting Entrepreneurial Opportunities Through

Promoting Entrepreneurial Opportunities Through

Rabbit Production in Haiti

Story contributed by Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak

In January of 2007, I was invited to participate in a Farmer to Farmer program through Partners of the Americas, an American NGO funded largely by USAID. As a veterinarian, a rabbit producer and a former Peace Corps volunteer (Niger 83-85) I had considerable expertise to offer the Haitians. Little did I know that this would be just the beginning of a long and extensive commitment to helping Makouti Agro Enterprises, a Haitian agricultural agency run by Benito Jasmin, develop the rabbit industry in Haiti.

On my first visit I saw a great deal of progress had been made as a result of prior volunteers. In the area of nutrition, all the rabbits were fed a variety of legumes, forages, grasses, fruits and vegetables. Leucena and sweet potatoes vines were the most frequently used forages. The commercial feed from the Dominican Republic was found to be deficient in vitamin A and caused hydrocephalus in newborns. We switched these larger rabbitries to a combination of pellets and forage which eliminated the problem.

By far the biggest problem I observed was the poor condition of the cages. We saw several cages built under Jim McNitt's tutelage. These were by far the best and the cleanest. The Haitians have had a difficult time locating adequate wire in Haiti or the Dominican Republic. The only adequate wire is from purchases in the US with the help of Friends of Haiti for Grand Boulage. Steps need to be taken to ensure a constant supply of cage wire.

From a veterinary standpoint the rabbits were mostly healthy. All were fed on the cage floor, which is a major cause of coccidia and feed wastes. Very few rabbits had water available, which could account for the young litter losses (possible poor milk production). We did see quite a few cases of mange (probably sarcopotic), which was being treated with Ivomec injections. This was causing problems with meat blemishes and overdosing. We also saw ear mites (suggested treating with mineral oil/ Ivomec mixture), malocclusion (showed how to trim teeth), skin Staph infection in babies (hygiene issue), conjunctivitis (wash eyes), snuffles (stressed rabbit, reduce stress or cull).

The most outstanding thing about these trips was the eagerness with which the Haitians were taking to rearing rabbits and the quality of their questions during the lectures. They clearly understand the benefits of raising rabbits and were eager to begin and expand. Their primary interest is income generation, protein consumption is secondary. The value of rabbit manure is also rapidly taking hold. However, they continue to need technical assistance, more breeding stock and materials to build adequate cages to properly care for their rabbits.

Over the course of the last two years we have succeeded in importing good quality cage wire (14 &16 g " X 1" GAW), water bottle nipples, cage building tools and funds to educate new areas of the country. Makouti now has 15 rabbit trainers and 4 rabbit specialist technicians that oversee 790 rabbit producers throughout Haiti. These improvements have lead to reduced kit losses, increased conception rates and improved conformation or physical condition.

More importantly, in 2008 the family rabbit production units averaged 120 rabbits sold, made HTG 31,000 =US $ 775.00, consumed 41 rabbits and lost 132 rabbits. While there is still room for improvements, these sums are considerable for a population in which 75% of the people earn less than US $1.00 per day, and production costs are nearly zero. The initial step-up costs per production unit, which includes a wire cage, 2 female rabbits, 1 male rabbit, water bottle nipples, group training (meals, transportation, etc. included) and follow up visits by a trained technician are about US $200.

In Haiti the key components of the rabbit program that have lead to its successes so far have been the following:

Careful selection of the Haitian rabbit producers

Making water available to the rabbits at all times

Modifications of management and disease treatment practices

Use and improvement of locally adapted rabbits through selective breeding rather than importation of improved stock

Education of technical staff and rabbit producers

Ongoing quality technical support by Haitian organizations

Self-sustaining model rather than a charity supported model

Program and animal management model is adapted to each site and modified as needed over time

Overcoming the lack of resources through importation of needed materials (mostly wire)

Creation of broad based and solid foundation for the rabbit industry to progress

Current focus is on reaching out to new areas of the country and educating more producers in other villages as supplies become available. Lectures are taught in series using 8 x 10 color photos, handouts and rabbits when available. Those students showing natural leadership tendencies are indentified and encouraged to become trainers. Students make their own cages from materials that they purchased directly, purchased through microcredit, or received through a donation. Generally rabbits are introduced slowly to a new area. People are first given a male rabbit for one month followed by 1-2 females as they become available. Prices for breeding stock are currently US $15 for males and $20 for females. Rabbits for meat seems to vary from US $5-15 for about 2 lbs of meat.

Marketing rabbit meat is the next major focus we will soon be venturing into. In 2008, restaurants made up 23% of sales, hotels 5%, and private families 72%. In the future, we plan to increase sales to hospitals, restaurants and hotels through chef demonstrations and promotions. Processing and refrigeration facilities will be created with an eye on exportation.

Makouti's slogan for the rabbit project is "Lapen pou lot demen" meaning "Rabbits for a better tomorrow".

Sarcoptic mange Vitamin A deficiency- Hydrocephalus

The challenges of raising rabbits in a resource poor country.

A proud graduating class Students teaching students

Happy rabbits and healthy people are the goal.

fonkoze deposit instructions.pdf

Haiti appeal.pdf

Story from Haiti - Promoting entrepreneurial opportunities through rabbit production in Haiti.pdf

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