20 May, Cairo, Egypt Once a week, Om Ahmed prepares
a dish of mallow greens with rabbit for her family of eight: her
husband, Abdel-Maksoud, her elderly mother-in-law and her five children.
This is the main source of animal protein in the familys diet,
which consists essentially of rice, bread, pasta, vegetables and
Om Ahmed lives in a two-room house in the densely populated shanty
settlement of Zawyet Abu Musallem, only 3 kilometres from the great
pyramid of Cheops, on the outskirts of Cairo. On her husbands
meagre salary, she has struggled to raise her children and put them
I want my children to have an education that will enable them
to find good work, she says, which is why I was interested
in joining Dr Hatim Abdel-Salaams rabbit breeding project.
Thanks to this initiative, I have learned to look after the rabbits,
which have multiplied many times over, and now I can sell some occasionally
to supplement our family income.
The project, launched with a grant of US$10,000 from TeleFood, FAOs
campaign to raise awareness and funds to fight hunger, initially
involved 20 families in Zawyet Abu Musallem. The primary objective
was to transform participants into rabbit breeders and help low-income
families achieve a measure of food security.
At the outset, the participants were provided with three female
rabbits and one male, a two-level rabbit breeding battery, rabbit
feed to last several months, medicines and vaccines. Dr Abdel-Salaam,
chief researcher at the Animal Production Research Institute of
the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and the project coordinator,
trained the participants in rabbit breeding and explained the use
of vitamin and mineral supplements, and the administration of medicines
for various conditions. The Ministry of Agriculture provided books
and training manuals, but most of the participants are unable to
read and must rely on their children to help them.
Now in its third year, the project has a high success rate -- 18
of the original 20 families have stuck with it and are making good
progress. After reinvesting their earnings, some families now operate
as many as six batteries housing several dozen rabbits.
Dr Abdel-Salaam visits the families regularly to check on their
progress and provide encouragement, additional training and supplies,
as necessary. As the rabbit owners gain experience, he gradually
reduces the assistance provided until they become fully self-reliant.
Of the first four rabbits, three died within a month,
says Om Ahmed. It was a difficult time for us, and we feared
that we would have to abandon the project. But Dr AbdelSalaam offered
us another rabbit, which we bred, and from which all 30 of the rabbits
we currently own are descended. An average female rabbit can
start breeding at five months of age and produces around 30 offspring
per year. Om Ahmed keeps only the females of each litter, selling
the males at two months for LE15 to 20 each (1 Egyptian pound =
approximately US$0.17 at current rates).
With her earnings, Om Ahmed bought an additional rabbit breeding
battery to house her growing rabbit population. She intends to enlarge
the space allocated for them on her rooftop, where she also keeps
hens and geese, and purchase another battery. Some of our
neighbours now have six rabbit batteries and are raising hundreds
of rabbits, which they sell in the market, she says. My
goal is to increase my sales, reinvest and enlarge my activity.
In this way, I need not rely on my childrens work and can
ensure that they remain in school.
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