The Rose Hall 4-H Training Centre in St Catherine has started a rabbit rearing project, with a view to promoting rearing of the animals and training of clubbites in rabbit production and management.
The rabbit project, which was launched recently, is being funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at a cost of some $600,000.00.
To date, the nine rabbits (seven bucks and two does) purchased by the centre, have produced seven kittens. The breeds being reared are Zealand Red and White.
Centre Manager at the Rose Hall 4-H Training Centre, Nehemiah Rowe told JIS News that the main focus now was to increase rabbit production and complete the installation of several compartments in the large wooden hutch at the centre. He said the hutch has a capacity to hold some 375 to 400 cages. So far,
50 cages have been purchased, with 15 of these in use.
"We plan to go full capacity," Mr. Rowe said, noting that additional work has to be done at the hutch. These include the building of an office, sick bay, fattener and breeding compartments for the rabbits.
In addition, the centre has started to grow rabbit feed, such as comfrey, mulberry and clover plants.
"We don't have many challenges when it comes to rearing the rabbits. We just need to get the production going, so that by the end of the year, we can start distribution," Mr. Rowe said.
He said there were plans to train clubbites in rabbit production and business management, so they could engage in income generating projects. There are also plans to start a rabbit revolving project, whereby each clubbite would receive two does and a buck as well as a small cage. Later, he said, the project would be expanded to involve more clubbites.
According to the Centre Manager, rabbit rearing is a profitable venture. He said that a pair of rabbits, depending on the size and breed, could be sold for about $3,000 or $5,000. Rabbit meat is sold for about $340.00 per pound, he said.
Sasha Miller, a Grade 6 student of Friendship Primary School, is one of hundreds of clubbites who have benefited from training in rabbit care and management offered by the 4-H Movement at schools in the parish.
"It can help you a lot, because you learn to care for rabbits and you learn to train them, so if you should have an agricultural career, you can do rabbit rearing for yourself. It is also a profitable business and it will help you a lot," she said.
Sasha, who has rabbits as pets at her home, recently won the annual 4-H Clubs rabbit care and management competition, held at Dinthill Technical High School in Linstead, St. Catherine.
"It did a lot for me and I promised that I would help the children at my school and pass on my knowledge about rabbits," she said.
President of the St. Catherine 4-H Leaders' Association and the National Leaders' Association, Deloris Henry, said that the training offered by the 4-H Movement was making a positive impact on the lives of young clubbites.
"It teaches them great work ethic and time management. They learn a skill as well as they can learn to start a small business on their own and learn to manage it," she said, adding that parents also benefit, since they learn from their children while helping them prepare for competitions.