Rabbit Farming as a Veritable Tool for Economic Empowerment
Food security and availability is a challenge globally; making individuals, governments and other stakeholders to seek for production alternatives. In the developing world; the poor are prone to both starvation and food insecurity.
The study examined rabbit farming as being a veritable tool for profitability and employment in Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria, with a view to determining among other things the profitability of rabbit farming, level of acceptability of rabbit meat as well as the constraints hampering rabbit farming in the study area.
The study dwelt with the demographic distribution of the sample population, the attitude on rabbit farming, their incomes, and rabbit products and benefits attracting farmers to rabbit farming. The target population consisted of rabbit farmers in Itu L.G.A. of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. There were 78 rabbit farmers sampled in this study. Data were collected using structured questionnaires and observations. The response rate was 84.6%. Data was cleaned and edited in Excel computer package and descriptive statistics arrived at using statistical package for social sciences (SPSS). The findings were that contrary to expectations, 72.5% adult reared rabbits, with 39.4% of rabbit farmers owning 10 to 20 rabbits and that the negative attitude against rabbit keeping had reduced over time. It was established that rabbit farming keeping thrived mainly because of being a source of white meat-food, income and manure as a combination 78.8% of the farmers confirmed. It was recommended that information regarding rabbit products and benefits be passed to the potential keepers. The study has revealed that rabbit farming is productive venture and should be encourages among rural farmers, and even mechanized farmers.
1.1 Background to the Study
In Africa, Nigeria records the largest importer of frozen fish Onebunne, (2013) and requires approximately 1.5 million tons of fish and meat annually to meet demand. Current domestic supply is about 0.5 million tons (over 30 percent of demand) including massive importation which is estimated over N20 billion annually Onebunne, (2013).
The human population growth in developed countries is stabilizing while in developing countries like Nigeria, it is still increasing rapidly (Carl Haub 2012)), In Nigeria, consumption of animal protein remains low at about 6.0 – 8.4g/head/day which is far below the 13.5g/head/day prescribed by (Egbunike, 1997). Thus, the search for more sources of protein to meet up this gap and the population challenge. Economic indices indicates that as this population trend continues, local farming an production needs to be increased rather than through food importation into such countries. Owen et al (2008), opined that in order to maximize food production and meet protein requirements in Nigeria, viable options need to be explored and evaluated. Among such alternatives is the use of livestock species that are yet to play a major role in animal production within these countries. Rabbits possess a number of features that might be of advantage in the small holder subsistence-type integrated farming in developing countries (Mailafia, et al 2010). The preliminary market analysis by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) suggests that an additional 25,000 tons or 100 percent increase in current production of animal protein in Nigeria can easily be absorbed (Onebunne, 2013), Cattle which could have been another major source of protein is being drained by desert encroachment, pest attacks and other factors. Mini-livestock production like grasscutter, guinea pig, porcupine, snail and rabbit is thus placed on the spotlight as the best option for food security in the country today.
Rabbit farming in Nigeria is faced with myriads of challenges, which have resulted to a gross shortage of meat to meet up the population challenge in the country (Nworgu, 2007). The growth rate of the Nigerian agricultural sector is below the potentials of natural and human resources due to high cost of agricultural inputs, poor funding of agriculture, inadequate functional infrastructural facilities, inconsistency of government agricultural policies, inadequate private sector participation, poor mechanized farming and little or no adoption of some simple agricultural technologies developed by scientists (Nworgu, 2007).
On gender involvement, Niamir-Fuller (1994) and Onifade et al (1999) observed that Women typically have complete responsibility for animals that are kept close to the homestead, in most cases for domestic consumption, such as poultry, calves rabbits and other small livestock, and for sick animals. Women rarely have major herding and management responsibilities for large stock but men, although there are exceptions as among the Touareg in Algeria, Mali and Niger, and sometimes among women in The Sudan. Women in transhumant systems in Somalia herd cattle, sheep and goats, while men take care of the camels.
Judging from health talks, seminars and enlightenment campaigns about the nutritional and health value of rabbit meat, one would have expected its production to be up in neck with poultry and piggery, but this is far from it. Information on the challenges and prospects of rabbit farming in Nigeria is scanty. Few of the information available are unable to elucidate the major intricacies involved in rabbit farming (Mailafia, et al 2010). This view was corroborated by Abu, et al (2008) in the status of research on rabbits as source of animal protein in Nigeria. Out of one hundred and ninety three (193) Postgraduate theses spanning 1969 – 2006 in the department of Animal Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria which were collated and analysed, only 6 (3%) involved rabbits for research. Two theses were in the area of nutrition, two on rabbit processing and consumer acceptance and the remaining two were in the area of reproductive physiology. Rabbit production offers a great potential for the attainment of food security in terms of provision of high quality animal protein intake, generate income for small-holder farmers as well as reduction of mass unemployment plaguing the nation.
It is obvious that the use and production of rabbit is considerably low compared with other livestock and poultry, hence the focus of this study to examine the socio-economic characteristics of rabbit farmers, acceptability of rabbit meat, the constraints to rabbit production, and to ascertain the costs and returns, hence the profitability of rabbit production.
1.2. Statement of the Problem.
Rabbit farming in Nigeria is done mostly on a small- scale by peasant farmers and raised for many different uses, and they can play an important role in a small sustainable family operation. While the most common use in agricultural industries is for meat, rabbit also is raised for pelts, manure, show, and laboratory use. Rabbit meat is reach in protein and low in fat, calories, and cholesterol when compared to most of the meat eaten in the United States. Rabbits are prolific and will breed year-round in well managed Rabbitries. Does have been known to kindle (give birth) up to 23 kits at one time. The average litter size is eight. Rabbits usually have four to five litters per year. With proper management, rabbits can be kindled more intensively. Rabbit are ready for market at four to five pounds. It usually takes eight weeks to reach this weight with proper care and feeding. Rabbits have an efficient feed conversion ratio – the amount of feed consumed per pound of body weight gain. A doe can produce up to 10 times its own weight, or more in offspring per year. Rabbit meat is one of the most nutritious meats available. It is the highest in protein, lowest in fat and cholesterol, has the least number of calories per pound and has only eight percent bone.
Rabbit farming for meat production is quite different from the maintenance of a pet or house rabbit. One should give careful consideration to essential elements of a rabbit production system. As with any livestock enterprise key elements of labor, facilities, and lifestyle should be considered. Conducting the necessary background investigation initially will preclude mistakes later on. Other key concerns for rabbit production include sanitation and health, nutrition, reproduction, and breeding.
Following the Impact Assessment Report (2006) on NALEP which had identified rabbit production as a means to address food security as a source of animal protein and a source of income for small scale farmers as well as the poor farmers in both the urban and rural areas, however, the uptake and adoption rates for the enterprise have remained low. Following these deliberate initiatives to increase rabbit population and adoption rates remaining low and slow there is need to establish iterate the importance of rabbit farming thereby discussing how much of a veritable tool it is in economic empowerment to farmers.
1.3 Objective of the study
To examine rabbit farming as a veritable tool for economic empowerment of farmers in Itu L.G.A. in Nigeria.
- To examine the level of involvement of farmers in rabbit farming in the study area.
- To examine the factors affecting rabbit farming in the study area.
- To examine the socioeconomic characteristics of the rabbit farmers in the study area.
1.4 Research Questions.
- Does rabbit farming create economic empowerment to rabbit farmers in the study area?
- What is the level of involvement of farmers in rabbit farming in the study area?
- What are the factors that affect rabbit farming in the study area?
- What is the socioeconomic characteristics of the rabbit farmers in the study area?
1.5 Significance of the Study
Identifying and understanding major factors that cause and/ or influence the problem of rabbit farming, as well as strategies to improve encourage farmers to invest in it. Rigorous empirical research on the profitability of rabbit farming has been pronounced and has great importance for policy implications and interventions.
It is imperative to describe and diagnose the existing farming systems to provide policy related information that helps to prioritize among the many possibilities depending on the relative extent of influences of its determinants.
This study also will provide a framework for farmers and intending farmers on rabbit farming, and the profit margin of the venture. More specifically, the results of the study help concerned bodies formulate policies and develop intervention mechanisms that are tailored to the specific need of the study area. In the end, the study will contribute to further research, extension and development schemes.
1.6 Scope of the study
The research project was carried out in Itu L.G.A.; Akwa Ibom state, focusing on rabbit production farmers, with the sample size of 78 farmers. The study was on profitability, factors, level of involvement and characteristics of farmers.
1.7 Definition of significant terms.
Economic empowerment– This is the ability to make and act on decisions that involve the control over and allocation of financial resources.
Rabbit products- These are what one get from rabbit farming that the farmer benefit from. In case of rabbit farming they include food (white meat), manure, income from products or rabbit sale, skin/fur.
Rabbit productivity – This is the level of production in various products from the rabbits, when good husbandry is practiced then the productivity goes up and benefits are more. Poor rabbit husbandry gives poor/low production level and subsequently low benefits.
Total farm income- this is the income that a farmer gets from the farming activities he undertakes in his farm.
Livestock officer- Personnel in Ministry of Livestock Development deployed in the field to disseminate information concerning livestock enterprises, rabbits included.[email protected][email protected]