Friday, March 21, 2008
Rabbit Project is moving forward.
Its been a while since I have provided an update on the Rabbit Project. The project stalled out for a while because I was unable to successfully raise newborn rabbits in the village. When they were born the mother would abandon them or kill them. I tried many things over the past 6-8 months as my costs in the project for rabbit feed continued to mount. My patience was exhausted at this point and I was arranging to give the hutch away and abandon the project. It was growing consensus that you cannot raise rabbits in the village because there is to much noise and stress ranging from children and cats to barking dogs. That is why the mothers were abandoning their babies.
Thankfully a young man named McClain came over to visit Marcie, he took a look at my rabbits as I told him my woes. When I pointed out the neighbors dog 15 feet away that barked continuously every night he suggested we move the entire hutch to the other side of the house as far away as possible from the dog, with my little yard that was only about 10ft. Little did I know that 10ft would made ALL the difference, my next litter of bunnies survived. I was ecstatic, I have had two more sets of rabbits born since with a rabbit from the first litter just giving birth to 10 babies of her own this week.
So the project is back on, I am currently working with a family from Anse La Verdue just above Canaries. The Canaries Community Club has identified this family as one of the poorest and most in need. The mothers husband died and she is raising 5 children with one of them being pregnant. She is Rastafarian so her diet is limited to starches and what can be gathered in the local area, they have no power and the house is the equivalent of a large wooden tool shed. One of her older sons Ison who is not a vegetarian is going to participate in the project to help earn some money for his family by selling the rabbits to other families and the Creole Pot food vendors. He is very passionate about learning this trade and he is quick to catch on and very intelligent. I have had him work with me caring for my rabbits to pass on the skills and I have taken him to Sebastian's farm to see a superior rabbit raising operation.
Below are some videos of Sebastian's farm and operation.
The farm and hutches:
Details on the Hutch designs:
Sebastian of Canaries, St. Lucia has the best hutch design I have seen on the island. The hutches are the proper size allowing free movement for the animals. He uses a heavy gauge wire that the rabbits cannot pull free compared to chicken wire. The hutch support beams are made of plastic or wrapped in metal to prevent rats. He also uses wire to attach the fresh veggies higher up so the rabbits get exercise. I would like to see how bamboo could be used to make hutches since it is an abundant free building material. I guess that is for the next Peace Corps volunteer.
Back to Ison; I am going to provide him the wire which is the most expensive cost for building a hutch, this wire was purchased with donations from friends and family back in the States along with the materials used to build the first rabbit hutch. I am going to give him a male and a female rabbit and Sebastian is going to give one of his rabbits to start this young mans business. As we speak I am writing fund raising letters to some of the Canaries leaders to raise some more funding for his starting feed costs(38EC per 50pd bag) and some 2x2 wood for the hutch frame. His family lives in the ideal spot for raising rabbits, they live in a quite area with lots of local plants that can be fed to rabbits. With a diet of old bread, banana leaves and other local veg and some fortified (special grain mix that contains extra vitamins and nutrients) you can raise healthy large rabbits with low costs.
One of the agreements is that after his operation is going if another family whats to start a project he will donate two rabbits to them for free and train them to continue the opportunity for other Saint Lucian's. This is modeled after the original heifer project that started in Saint Lucia 50 years ago with the first Peace Corps arriving and teaching farming skills. Cattle and animals were donated by churches in the US and Peace Corps volunteers trained local farmers making the same agreement of them giving the first calf to another farmer.