Rabbit-rearing has become a new way of life for residents of Nagaland’s Phek district, which has been reeling under a severe meat deficit.
Three years back, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra Phek, under the aegis of National Research Centre on Mithun, started a programme to introduce rabbits to the indigenous communities as an alternative source of quality meat, and at the same time, a livelihood option for farm women.
Krishi Vigyan Kendra Phek programme coordinator R.K. Singh told The Telegraph, “The programme has become a success, as rabbitry (rabbit farming) has now become a commercial venture in the district. It has also become a good source of livelihood for the villagers.”
The people of Nagaland are predominantly non-vegetarian in their food habits and relish meat from all possible sources. Common domestic animals like pigs, cattle, buffaloes, goats, poultry and dogs and even some wild animals, reptiles, amphibians and insects are among the traditional delicacies. But despite high demand for animal products in the region, the livestock reared in the state are of inferior genetic makeup and, therefore, production is low.
Singh said the aim of the programme was to popularise rabbitry, because rabbits reproduced and grew fast and were thus found to be a good option to address the shortfall in meat production. Two exotic varieties of rabbits — New Zealand White and Soviet Chinchilla — were introduced for this programme.
Phek alone has an annual deficit of about 6,520 metric tonnes of meat, and as there was no taboo associated with consumption of any kind of meat, farmers adopted rabbitry enthusiastically.
It was introduced in 2008-09 as pilot study programme in two villages of the district — Porbami Upper Khel and Gidemi — and more villages were involved in the next two years.
“The success of this venture attracted other farmers to start rabbitry on a large scale and the kendra has trained a batch of 22 rural youths of Phek town to take up rabbitry commercially and 10 of them have been linked with the SBI for loans and to avail the benefits of government of India programme of supporting livestock activity in the state,” Singh said.
Singh said economic analysis of the rabbitry was carried out in the targeted villages and the data revealed that one female rabbit gave birth to a minimum of 25 rabbits in a year. Two-month-old rabbits fetched Rs 150 in the market, thereby generating a cumulative income of Rs 3,750 from every female rabbit.
“It was estimated that on an average, every family earned a minimum of Rs 2,000 per rabbit as profit in a year after considering all expenditures,” Singh said, adding that the cumulative wealth generation by all families was Rs 27.92 lakh a year.