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Script 80.1

Notes to broadcasters

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Rabbits can be of great social and economic value to both the family and the community at large. They provide meat, a source of fertility, and other products, and can be quickly sold for cash or turned into a nutritious meal when needed. With careful attention, they are not difficult to raise, and can be an important source of income and nourishment, especially because they can be raised by any member of the family.

In this special two-part interview series, a famous rabbit farmer and retired agricultural extension worker talks about how raising rabbits can reduce poverty and create jobs. In the first part of the interview, we learn about the many benefits of raising rabbits. In the second, we learn the basics of caring for and feeding rabbits.

Script

Traditional swange music from Mbanor village, Nigeria.

Host:
The short piece of swange music which opened the program today comes from Mbanor, a village which is famous for its fine breeds of livestock. Coincidentally, our guest on the program today is a famous farmer who is also from Mbanor village. Please join me in welcoming Chief Asema Yuwa.

Chief:
Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Host:
In this two-part interview, Chief Asema Yuwa, a retired agricultural extension worker and a very experienced farmer, will answer questions on how to raise rabbits and their importance to our social and economic life. This is a chance for us to learn more from a practising farmer. Chief Yuwa, I understand that you are retired but still actively farming.

Chief:
Of course. At 62 I am retired but not tired!

Host:
That’s great! Now could you begin by telling us why raising rabbits is so very important?

Chief:
Raising rabbits is one of the simplest yet most beneficial forms of animal farming. It is not as complicated as livestock businesses which depend heavily on medication and restraining animals.

Host:
Are you saying that raising rabbits is so simple that any interested and willing person can keep and breed rabbits?

Chief:
That’s right! “Any interested person”, if I may use your expression, can keep rabbits because they are gentle animals. Women, the aged, the disabled and even children can raise rabbits. It doesn’t require much physical strength to restrain them, unlike large animals.

Host:
That means there can be no limit to the number of rabbits an individual can keep.

Chief:
Herd size is for individual farmers to decide. You have to take into account available space, available labour and why the family wants to raise rabbits. For instance, some people keep rabbits for food while others keep them for both meat and for sale. Because rabbits produce quickly and are small animals, it is easy to sell them off when an owner or a family needs cash. That’s why some people call rabbits “the living accounts of the family”. They can be turned into cash any time and are a great poverty alleviator.

Host:
Is it tough preparing rabbit meat for a meal, Chief?

Chief:
Rabbits are simple animals in every way, including their meat. It is light and refreshing in flavour. I am sure you will agree yourself if you have eaten rabbit meat. Also, there are no taboos or cultural barriers against eating rabbits anywhere that I know of.

Host:
I have tasted rabbit meat several times and I like it partially dried. But rabbit meat is no longer common at the grocery.

Chief:
That is why this radio program is very important. It can help to educate farmers on raising rabbits, boost production and improve community wellbeing. One good thing about rabbits is that there is no waste or what we call offal in rabbits. Every part of the animal is used. Also, preparing rabbit meat is economical. Very little energy is required to cook it. Those who must pay for their energy by buying firewood or kerosene for the stove will be happy to hear that.

Host:
You say that no part of the rabbit is wasted. Then what happens to the fur and droppings?

Chief:
Rabbit fur is used in the manufacture of hats, leather and glue. That’s why pelts – which are the flayed skin with the woolly hair on it – are in high demand by industry. So what you think is waste is in fact converted to wealth.

Host:
So we are left with only the droppings as waste?

Chief:
Not at all! Many farmers may already know that rabbit dung provides manure that enriches the soil and improves vegetable crops and plants.

Host:
Chief Yuwa, you just spoke about production for industrial use. Does this suggest that rabbits have a very high production rate to support industrial production?

Chief:
Rabbits produce at a fantastic rate. One female, called a doe, is capable of yielding about 30 to 40 rabbits a year. If you have 10 does in the nest, this means approximately 300 to 400 rabbits per year. And whether you want more does or more bucks is up to you. With the rapid increase in population and the growing demand for more meat, the high production rate in rabbits is a welcome development.

Host:
So I can decide whether I want does or bucks, in other words female or male rabbits?

Chief:
Of course! Rabbits produce litters of six to ten offspring after a gestation period of only 30 days.

Host:
That does sound prolific.

Chief:
Exactly! Rabbits are prolific producers, especially when they are given the right environment and careful treatment.

Host:
Treatment? Do rabbits get sick often?

Chief:
Not really. But they may get sick often, if they lack the right kind of care. They do not need regular vaccinations to prevent disease like many other animals. Many common rabbit diseases can be controlled by simple practices which, due to time constraints, we will not be able to discuss in detail today.

Host:
Chief Yuwa, it’s been a huge pleasure and a big education having you on the show.

Chief:
You are welcome – any time, any day.

Host:
Listeners, you have been learning about the importance of raising rabbits. Our guest in this interview was Chief Asema Yuwa, a retired agricultural extension worker and famous rabbit farmer from Mbanor village. Tune in again for the second and concluding part of our interview on how to raise rabbits. From me, it’s goodbye.

Swange music

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Sachia Ngutsav, Radio Benue, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.
Reviewed by: Terry Wollen, Director of Animal Well-Being, Staff Veterinarian, Heifer International.

Information Sources

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2005. Livestock Keeping and Animal Husbandry in Refugee and Returnee Situations: A Practical Handbook for Improved Management.
  • CERES No. 140 (Vol. 25, No. 2) – March-April 1993: Cerescope: Rabbit rearing is a frame of mind
  • Rabbits: small animals for small spaces, by Eugene Ateh. LEISA, Volume 10, #4, 1994.
  • South Africa National Department of Agriculture, 1998. Keeping Rabbits.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1988. Better Farming Series 36. Raising Rabbits 1: Learning About Rabbits; Building the Pens; Choosing Rabbits.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1988. Better Farming Series 37. Raising Rabbits 2: Feeding Rabbits; Raising Baby Rabbits; Further Improvement.