Supporting People Living with HIV
with Rabbit Production
Small ruminant livestock play a vital role in the livelihoods of many rural communities providing food, income and manure. Supporting farmers with small livestock like rabbits has proved to be a practical, achievable and cost-effective way of reducing the vulnerability of living with HIV.
Robert Chisuzi, 40, is a farmer from Chisuzi village, GVH Kambalani in Lilongwe district and is married to Christina, 40. Together they have four children (Pilirani 14 years and Samson, 8 years, Elizabeth 17 years and Florida 10 years).
Robert’s family is earning a livelihood through rearing rabbits. The family was targeted through CPAR’s Farmers First Program as People Living with AIDS (PLHIV) as both he and his wife were found to be HIV positive and have since been registered on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). At the time, they were so frail and needed urgent nutritional support.
With the support of the trained Community Home Based Care (CHBC) volunteers, the couple enrolled into the CHBC program and later enrolled into Umodzi FFS where they are participating as members in all FFS activities.
“Ever since being on community home-based care our health status improved greatly and after joining the Farmer Field School, our approach to farming has changed a lot because I had a chance to learn and share experiences with my fellow farmers on different farming techniques,” says Robert.
“My greatest inspiration and motivation came after our household received livestock and was trained on pig and rabbit management by CPAR in July 2010. I am so impressed with the rabbits as they have a short reproductive cycle (31 days gestation period), high prolificacy and an efficient food conversion rate,” says Robert holding one of his rabbits by the ears.
Rabbits can be managed on a small piece of land and they are also good source of income, manure and protein..
After the training, CPAR provided me with four start-up rabbits (one male and three female) as part of the “pass-on scheme” in November 2011. Since then my rabbits have been multiplying so rapidly with each doe (female rabbit) able to reproduce four times a year with each giving me on average five-seven young ones.
I have managed to pass on 12 rabbits to five other households with each getting one male and one to two females. From 2010 up to date, I have sold over 35 rabbits (out of the 84 produced) at $4 each realizing over $150 which has been supplementing our income from crop production. I have also slaughtered 30 rabbits for meals at home and currently I have 11 rabbits.
“Ever since I started rearing the rabbits, I have been able to slaughter a rabbit every fortnight and one rabbit is just the right size to feed my average family for two-three meal- servings. As you can see, the supply of meat is now continuous and this has helped to improve protein intake for my family. We now look healthy and strong despite being on ART,” he says.
We have also been benefitting from manure from the rabbit droplets and applying it to our backyard garden where we have been accessing good quality vegetables to supplement the protein intake from the rabbit meat.
To Robert’s advantage, the rearing of rabbits has been very easy as their food is readily available locally. These animals will eat almost anything from greens (fresh vegetables) including various kinds of grass, groundnut haulms, sweet potato vines, maize bran etc.
“Also, keeping rabbits requires no great amount of time and labour (which is a plus for us who are labour constrained) such that even my young children especially Samson the last born is able to feed them. He likes them so much that after coming home from school he is always busy with rabbits feeding them and watching them play while we are doing other activities,” says Robert.