By ANGELA KABAMBA
ABOUT 10 cooperatives, among them individual farmers of Sioma district in Western Province have been given 100 rabbits and 10 cages as housing for the rabbits, through government’s co- financed project Enhanced Smallholder Livestock Investment Programme (E-SLIP).
E-SLIP Stocking and Restocking Specialist, Mwape Mweni, disclosed that about USD$15,000 had been injected in the procurement, placement and training of the smallholder farmers in the district.
Mr Mweni added that the beneficiaries have been given 10 rabbits each, and will be required to pass on the off-springs within a period of two months to the next households another 10 set of rabbits, as a way of helping them recover from the effects of COVID-19 in terms of food and nutrition.
Mr Mweni disclosed that currently, the project is targeting two districts in the Province, namely; Sioma and Nalolo districts respectively. The training of smallholder farmers focuses on rabbit management in Sioma district.
He said E-SLIP as a Programme under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock is also trying to promote the production of rabbits, as it is discovered that rabbits production for places like Sioma district is a new venture, hence the promotion of new technologies and aspects of livestock production that can reproduce quickly, as rabbits only take six months to reproduce, and within a space of two months, will be ready for consumption.
Mr Mweni explained that one of the activities that his ministry has considered to be a relief to farmers due to the impact of COVID-19 was to consider a livestock type which would be easily multiplied and distributed to the mostly affected farmers in the various parts of the country, hence rabbits were considered.
He stated that the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock as a leading entity for government to facilitate the placement of livestock as one of the activities under stocking and restocking has been placing animals since 2018 in various parts of the country, adding that the major livestock species E-SLIP has placed so far in all the 10 provinces of Zambia include diary animals which is cattle, beef animals, goats and village chickens as well as pigs.
Mr Mweni explained that the target has been that of pro-poor, looking at the fact that more than 80% of the Zambian population depend on agriculture, which includes crops production as well as livestock production.
He added that the importance of rabbit production is that they give the nutritional requirements in terms of proteins, and income because they are prolific in breeding and faster in growth, adding that there is so much demand mostly in urban areas like Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt Provinces.
The ministry is trying it’s best to see if it can promote production of rabbits at a commercial level, and ensure that farmers can generate proper income from the sales.
Mr Mweni disclosed that other benefits of rabbits is it’s urine that can be used for fertilizer or as a pesticide in organic farming, (crop farming) as well as the dropies that can be used as manure, and it’s skin can be used in the clothing, shoe or handbag industry, citing examples of countries like Kenya, where the skin of a rabbit can fetch as much as $5 for a fully grown rabbit.
He said the project’s mandate is to make sure that it spearheads or enhances activities to do with livestock production in terms of nutrition as well as general animal husbandry activities, adding that as E-SLIP, the Programme is doing two major things, that is disease control and major diseases like Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) which is more domiciled in Western Province as well as East Cost Fever (ECF), commonly found in cattle.
Mr Mweni said additional support that farmers will get from the ministry is being enrolled under the sub-Programme which is promoting forage production which is very important for ruminants which get nourished by taking vegetative material, by getting seed and plant, saying once they grow, will be able to feed the rabbits for nutrition purposes and reduce on the cost of feeding.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Chief Livestock Production Officer, Vincent Simoongwe, said the type of breed distributed in Sioma district is pure and cross breed as well as local strains, adding that one rabbit weighs 3kgs and their life span is 6-10 years, of which females mature at 4-5 months and can give birth at least 5 times in a year to about 8 babies if well fed, while males mature at 5 months.
Mr Simoongwe has since advised the beneficiaries to take rabbit production as an important venture which can change their lives if kept well and grow them to a point where they can fetch a good price on the market as well as utilize them for their nutritional needs when need arises.
And one of the beneficiary farmer, Mwambwa Mitala, said the training of rabbit management has enlightened her and other small-scale farmers, as most of them had no knowledge on how rabbits can be taken care of.
Ms Mitala added that she has learnt that one rabbit can fetch more money than a chicken on the market.
She has thanked government to continue empowering more citizens as such interventions will help reduce poverty at household level.
It is hoped that through this initiative, farmers’ lives will be transformed through increased production and income. -NAIS