Livestock Research for Rural Development 19 (5) 2007 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

The small-scale rabbit production model: Intermediate factors

S D Lukefahr

Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences, MSC 228, Texas A and M University-Kingsville, TX, 78363, USA

s-lukefahr@tamuk.edu

(Paper presented at the 3rd Rabbit Congress of the Americas, August 21-23, 2006. Maringá, Brasil)
 

Abstract

In most countries of the world, the rabbit "industry" largely consists of limited-resource farmers who maintain small-scale operations with the aim of producing more meat and income. At the 8th World Rabbit Congress held in Puebla in 2004, the Small-Scale Rabbit Production Model (SSRPM) was presented. Overall, the SSRPM consists of the three-tiered spheres of internal, intermediate, and external factors that can be used as a planning tool to impact target beneficiaries who are limited-resource farmers, predominately from lesser developed countries. It is critical that the project planner and(or) manager considers the fine detail and dynamics involved between and within factors. The SSRPM is flexible and can be modified according to local conditions. The objective of this paper is to further develop and expand on the intermediate factors of the SSRPM that involve the dimensions of project development: feasibility, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

A rabbit development programme is based on a well-defined goal and supporting objectives. Project feasibility determines whether or not the rabbit project should be started. If the decision is made to initiate the project, then a project design or blueprint needs to be developed. Afterwards, the project is ready to be implemented, which oftentimes begins with the selection of farmers for rabbit training. Once farmers engage in production, they will need to be carefully monitored to ensure that the programme objectives are being met. Lastly, once formally terminated (i.e., funding support is ceased), the project should be evaluated, which results in a report that reflects the lessons learned.

In summary, adoption of the SSRPM can serve as a guide to the project planner and (or) manager to help ensure ultimate programme success.

Keywords: development, economics, production, rabbits, training


Introduction

On the occasion of the 8th World Rabbit Congress, Lukefahr (2004) proposed the Small-Scale Rabbit Production Model (SSRPM) as a holistic and sustainable model for subsistence rabbit project development, predominately in the lesser-developed countries (LDC). The SSRPM can be used as a guide or planning tool by rabbit scientists to develop rabbit projects that foster food security and income generation for limited-resource farmers. In other words, the SSRPM can aid scientists in developing successful rabbit projects from start to finish.

In brief, the SSRPM consists of the three-tiered spheres of internal, intermediate, and external factors (Figure 1):



Figure 1.
  The small-scale rabbit production model (SSRPM) wheel of sustainability


It was emphasized that one weak link could cause the collapse of the model, and hence failure of the rabbit project. For example, at the external tier (sociological) - husbands may not allow their wives to raise livestock, or at the intermediate tier (feasibility) - it may not be possible to create markets for rabbit meat, or at the internal tier (health) - a local disease exists in which no treatment is known. Due to page space and time limitations, the intermediate factors of the SSRPM were very briefly mentioned in the original paper. Therefore, The purpose for this companion paper is to highlight and expand on the critical role of intermediate tier of factors that contribute to the SSRPM.
 

Project feasibility

The purpose for conducting a feasibility study is to determine whether or not the rabbit project should be started. Is it a locally appropriate solution to the so-called human problem (typically being hunger and(or) poverty)? Ideally, the community as a whole should actively participate through meetings to reach a consensus in making the initial request to a programme organization to explore the feasibility of a rabbit project. Hence, the idea is their own. It cannot be overemphasized that, from the very onset, a sense of project ownership is paramount to ultimate project success.

Historically, many rabbit projects have failed in terms of the non-realization of its programme goal and objectives. To the novice (a missionary, an extension agent, a local volunteer, or even a rabbit scientist), it all sounds too good to be true: Let the poor people raise rabbits - they will all benefit from the abundant meat supply and their incomes will rapidly increase through the sales of surplus fryers! Of course, what often sounds too good to be true usually is. Oftentimes, the failed project was the direct consequence of being a non-appropriate intervention or was simply a "bad idea" in the first place. For example, perhaps there was no competent rabbit expert, such that critical knowledge was never learned, or the culture forbade visits by male extension agents to homes where women raised rabbits, or simply that farmers were never genuinely interested in the rabbit project idea because it was someone else's idea that was imposed upon the community. Lukefahr (1992) documented six common reasons for past rabbit project failure, which include: a feasibility study was never conducted; there was little or no community involvement; there was a lack of rabbit market activities; there were no rabbit experts available; farmers were poorly trained and (or) supervised; and there was no project spread or multiplication involving new rabbit farmers.

Fundamentally, a potential rabbit project must be strongly justified in all areas (i.e., internal, intermediate, and external factors) to be recommended for its initiation, support, and development. In determining the feasibility of a rabbit project, the project team (ideally including a rabbit scientist) needs to first assess the internal SSRPM factors from the standpoint of appropriate resources and(or) technology. A feasibility checklist can be developed to address internal and external SSRPM factors from the standpoint of technical soundness (Tables 1 and 2).


 Table 1.  Rabbit project feasibility checklist relating to SSRPM internal factors

Factor

Topic

Diet

1) On-farm resources (forage/garden plot )?

2) Need for commercial feeds/supplements?

Genetics

1) Availability of local breeds?                                 
2) Most appropriate breeding system?

Health

1) Local diseases and their remedies?

Housing

1) Low-cost, Renewable resources?

2) Is wire for cages affordable to farmers?



Table 2.   Rabbit project feasibility checklist relating to SSRPM external factors1

Perspective

Topic

Ecological

1) Farmís resources are conserved?                                 
2) Integrated rabbits into your present farming practices?      
3) Promotion of nutrient flow/cycles                                  

Economical

1) Sufficient capital to invest and operate a rabbit enterprise  
2) Pay-back on a loan for breeding stock by returning offspring to the project for distribution to another family?

Social

1) Family able to spend time to operate a rabbit enterprise?   
2) Family plan on consuming rabbit meat on a weekly basis? 
3) Attend regular rabbit farmer meetings?                               
4) Willing to help other farmers in your village                          
5) Community support of the rabbit project

1Adapted from Lukefahr 1992


The checklist or questionnaire forms can be locally modified and expanded to include all relevant SSRPM factors that reflect the local situation, which can be used while interviewing a random sample of representative farmers. The community group could provide a list of farmer's names from which the sample can be drawn. Later, the farmer's responses are analyzed, results are interpreted, and conclusions are made to recommend whether or not to initiate the project. However, other sources of information are also needed to develop a more comprehensive feasibility report. Besides farmers, interviews may also involve potential business buyers of rabbit meat when markets are later developed, extension specialists who may coordinate the technical assistance of agents (prior to or following formal project termination), and social workers who may be interested in specific outcomes of the rabbit project, such as the empowerment of women and the economic, health, and nutritional impact on the family. For large-funded potential projects, the feasibility team could even consist of experts in fields of economics and marketing, extension methods, health and nutrition, and sociology. Each team member will obtain relevant information from a variety of sources. For example, the marketing specialist might be fortunate to obtain copies of Master's Theses from universities that engaged students in conducting a market feasibility study of rabbit meat. The thesis reports may have been one outcome of a research grant that was awarded to a rabbit scientist. Once the feasibility report is prepared, it should be shared with the community. Of course, the community will be pleased if the report's recommendation is favourable. If such is the case, then a source of funds will need to be procured to support the project.


Project design

If the feasibility report recommends project initiation, then the next step is for the project to be carefully designed. In many ways, a project proposal is similar to a project design. Basically, a project design is a blue-print or plan of how the project will be implemented, monitored, and evaluated considering all the critical internal and external factors of the SSRPM. A project design will also include information from the feasibility report so as to provide critical background and justification of the need of the target group, as well as a clear show of the programme goal and objectives. An activity timetable should also be prepared.

While there is no set format for developing a project design document, it is important to provide enough detail so that it can be easily followed later. Moreover, it is just as important to allow for flexibility in the design or blue-print plan. This sweeping statement deserves further explanation. A project design closely parallels the Materials and methods section of a manuscript (found originally in the project proposal or grant). A good scientist provides the critical detail necessary such that other scientists can repeat the same experiment. In development, the individual who designed the project is usually not the same person who implements the project. The extent of detail should relate to the How's, When's, Who's, and Where's of the project. For example, in farmer training, how many farmers will be trained, when will training occur, who will do the training, and where will training take place?

Flexibility refers to the ability to make changes later to the design once the project is implemented and without adverse consequences being felt. In development, we know that change is inevitable. To illustrate, perhaps it was designed that 100 farmers would receive rabbit training in the first year of the project in four groups or cycles, but later it was realized that this figure was too ambitious, so the figure was reduced to 50 farmers so that they could later all receive high-quality and regular on-farm supervisory visits.

To set the stage for describing intermediate factors, a clear programme goal and objectives statement for a typical rabbit project is presented, as follows:

Goal

The goal is to benefit 300 farmers over three years by improving diet quality and increasing farm income by establishing a sustainable, small-scale rabbit enterprise.

Objectives
  1. to provide rabbit training to 100 farmers each year, 25 each quarter;
  2. to distribute trios of breeding stock to trained farmers who will soon establish 5- to 10-doe production enterprises, and that are supported by renewable local resources. Later, farmers will pass-on breeding stock (to honour their in-kind loan) to newly trained farmers to ensure project multiplication;
  3. to closely monitor production activities to ensure that families consume at least one rabbit fryer per week;
  4. to coordinate market activities involving sales of surplus fryers such that farm income is increased, on average, by 50%; and
  5. to develop rabbit farmer leaders in villages who will ultimately take over the programme.

A broad or general goal statement is acceptable. However, objectives that support the goal must be specific and measurable so that the project's impact can later be easily quantified.

As a working prototype for this paper, five major components of a rabbit project typically include:

  1. farmer training;
  2. stock distribution;
  3. rabbit production;
  4. marketing/ consumption; and
  5. leadership development.

It is paramount to project success that farmers are well trained (Lukefahr and Cheeke 1991), which of course assumes a competent trainer. But how should we select farmers for training? Actually, we should not make this decision, but rather it is better if the community makes this decision. Remember, this is a community project. The best training involves small rather than large groups of farmers. Training should take place on a demonstration farm in the region (as opposed to a distant training centre), and should not be conducted intensely over several days, but rather in tandem. In my experience, it has been more effective to teach one lesson, such as forage plot establishment, and then allow farmers a week or two to adopt the innovation. Then, at the next training session, farmers receive a new lesson (e.g., hutch construction), and so forth, until all the lessons are taught, by which time the farmers are ready to receive breeding stock. In general, farmers can better understand and later recall the new knowledge if it is provided using a tandem approach, as opposed to being overwhelmed by too much technical information over a short period of time. Moreover, this approach offers incentives to help identify highly motivated farmers who oblige by completing each lesson of the rabbit training course (e.g., forage plot establishment, hutch construction, and shed preparation), and, after receiving breeding stock, will go on to become successful rabbit farmers. The final lesson during training should be one of sharing a rabbit meat meal with the farmers, so that they will have this positive experience to remember. To re-emphasize, such details should be clearly specified in the project design document.

Stock distribution should result after farmers have been well trained and have prepared a proper place for raising rabbits. There are two important issues here. First, to establish a small enterprise of only a few rabbits for the farmer, such as five to ten does and one buck (a buck is not necessary if a neighbour has a good buck; this also fosters community goodwill). The provision of only a few rabbits per farmer either allows the programme to purchase fewer total rabbits and (or) distribute fewer rabbits to more farmers. The stock being provided to the farmer should be at least 3 months-old and ready to breed in two or more months, so that the animals can first acclimatize to their new surroundings. The second issue a financial one. If affordable, farmers should purchase the rabbits so that their value is appreciated. From experience, farmers assign no sense of value to something that is given away freely. If they cannot afford the stock, then an in-kind loan arrangement could be considered (Aaker 1994). The repayment plan could be as simple as the subsequent return of the same number in offspring as provided by the original parent stock.

Successful production requires the timely supervisory visits of a rabbit expert, which may be a specialist or an experienced extension agent or local rabbit farmer leader. But, how timely is timely? A thumb figure is to visit the farmer at least every other week. The motive is to visit the farmer often enough so that minor or potential problems can be remedied before they become major problems that could lead to enterprise failure. Positive experiences should far outweigh negative ones, such that the farmer is encouraged to persevere while gaining confidence. In other words, his efforts are being rewarded. When a negative experience occurs, such as kits escaping through a hutch, the lesson should be portrayed as a valuable lesson in which the farmer learns how to better maintain hutches. Further, if too many big problems are allowed among farmers, then a snowball effect occurs, whereby the rate of project abandonment gets out of control and becomes irreversible. A popular adage in development is that a failed project is worse than no project at all (Bunch 1982).

If production is successful, then the family should soon benefit from the regular consumption of meat and sales of surplus fryers. It is this event where the original programme goal and objectives are critically tested. The project design should also specify that basic records of farmer's consumption and marketing activities will be kept. Oftentimes, the rabbit programme has the two-fold focus on nutrition and income. If the primary goal is to improve diet quality, then, for an averaged-sized family, it might be recommended that the project design specifies, for example, that for every three rabbits produced: two are consumed and one is sold (excluding replacement needs). The opposite is recommended if the primary programme goal is economic.

The development of local rabbit farmer experts or leaders is perhaps the most important programme activity. Another saying in development is that this very activity is "how we can best work ourselves out of work." In the project design document, a description should appear of how the best rabbit farmers will be identified and groomed by the programme staff. To illustrate, a potential farmer leader (much like an apprentice) can be taught one-on-one how to informally train new rabbit farmers on their own farm, and later how to provide them with sound advice, breeding stock, forage materials, marketing information, etc. However, besides being a best farmer, other qualifications include enthusiasm and resourcefulness, natural abilities to teach and to be a leader, and willingness to volunteer for the common good of the community. It usually takes a minimum of six months to one year to develop a farmer into local leader.
 

Project implementation

To implement or start the project, it is obvious that one follows the design document. It is also said in development that a project well designed is a project half-accomplished; hence, emphasizing the importance of a carefully designed project. The aim is to start small and develop the project gradually, while allowing for adjustments (due to change) to the project design plan.

The first project activity usually relates to farmer training. It is essential that the first cycle of farmers are carefully screened as candidates for training. As stated previously, candidates should be selected by members of the community, typically through a voting process, as those individuals who are the most highly motivated and likely to eventually become successful rabbit farmers. Instead, if the programme selects the trainees this could well cause jealousy within the community. Moreover, candidates selected for training should feel an obligation to the community because of their vote of confidence. In addition, a strong match should exist between enthusiastic trainees and a competent trainer. During training, it is important that farmers are responsive by demonstrating their new knowledge, such as through the construction of hutches and the establishment of forage plots on their own farms. These incentives effectively serve to further screen out non-responsive farmers, while further motivating the more responsive ones. Again, according to the design document, the final training lesson should be on the nutritional value, preparation, and consumption of rabbit meat using local recipes. This experience usually leaves a lasting and favourable impression on farmers to work hard towards the goal of regular rabbit meat consumption by their family.

Breeding stock should only be distributed to farmers who have completed training and who have set-up a proper place for raising rabbits. Farmers should receive breeding stock at the same time, say within one week. Ideally, a community celebration of this activity should be planned, which further engenders an obligation for farmers receiving breeding stock to do well.

In some projects, farmers sign agreement forms in the presence of the community to testify that they will honour their breeding stock loan by later returning the same number of offspring, which in turn will be distributed to the next cycle or generation of trained farmers.

Early rabbit production success or failure is a good test of the effectiveness of training. Of course, those farmers who best understood what they learned during training should be rewarded with the first arrival of several healthy litters. Another aim of regular visits, however, is to test the farmer's understanding of critical knowledge. Nonetheless, experience is always the best teacher! Farmers should consider mistakes as positive learning experiences, and not allow themselves to become too frustrated. Farmers should also be encouraged to maintain simple yet accurate production records so that production trends can be monitored.

Once production occurs, the regular consumption of rabbit meat by the family and the marketing of surplus rabbit fryers (for breeding stock and(or) for meat) should occur. Of course, these critical activities relate to the original goal of improving diet quality and increasing farm income for the family, as the supporting objectives (e.g., training, stock distribution, and production) become realized. Encourage the farmer by statements such as your children's health will improve and you will increase your income! Records of these activities should be developed by the programme and provided to farmers, which will later be collected for subsequent analyses during project evaluation.

Although programme staff can identify potential farmer leaders at any time, it may take from six months to one year before such farmers ("diamonds in the rough") can first gain adequate experience before this activity becomes a programme focus. In following the design plan, a potential farmer leader will be trained like an apprentice would, by being taken to the field on a regular basis to learn first-hand how farmers are properly supervised, so that such skills can be gradually developed. The fledging farmer leader will also attend regular programme planning and local farmer meetings. Of course, the aim is that the leader apprentice will later assume the role of the rabbit project leader (local expert). More detail on farmer leadership development appears in the next section.


Project monitoring

The attitude concerning monitoring is to keep the project on track towards the programme goal, but to know that it is never too late to modify the project design's objectives, even after the project has been implemented. Change can always be expected.

A well-designed programme demonstrates good flexibility, resulting in smooth adaptation to change. In addition, to monitor a project, quantitative data is needed which can be gathered from primary sources (e.g., figures from training and stock distribution activities and farmer's records), whereas qualitative data can be gathered from secondary sources (e.g., interviews and surveys). In this section of the paper, reference will again be made to the five project components that each match to a specific programme objective. For each component, a problematic scenario will be presented, followed by a demonstration of a working solution.

Previously mentioned, a common scenario in regards to training is that the original objective was too ambitious. The programme realized this problem after attempting to provide regular visits to so many farmers. Down-scaling the number of trainees should improve the quality of training, which enhances ultimate farmer outcome, not to mention reducing budgetary pressures. Keep in mind that training is continuous; while there is initial formal training, there is also subsequent informal training, the latter of which that takes place on the farmer's farm. It is also a good strategy to test farmers - both during and after training - to ensure that they are learning or retaining what they were taught. The use of pre- and post-test instruments is recommended to assess learning (Figure 2).



Figure 2.
   Mean number (N) of incorrect answers before and after a training lesson


If results are discouraging, the lesson can be repeated! During regular farmer meetings, timely discussions are critical, such as how to care for newborn litters, prior to the actual births of the farmer's first litters. Farmer meetings are also a good avenue to discuss common problems, such as a disease outbreak, or new developments, such as a marketing opportunity or an improved forage species.

For the stock distribution component, it might later be observed that because of an adverse environment (e.g., a hot climate) farmers are not fully realizing the output of 100 to 200 fryers per annum produced from 5 to 10 breeding does, even though they are doing everything correct from a management standpoint. If the farmers have the resources (e.g., low-cost feed and hutches, and time), an increase in the operation size (e.g., from a 10- to a 20-doe breeding enterprise) appears justified. Another scenario is that because markets have recently been expanded, farmers desire to increase their operation size from a 10- to a 20-doe breeding enterprise. In both scenarios, although the project design indicated a 5- to 10-doe enterprise, these modifications are made to increase breeding doe numbers to ensure that the programme goal and objectives are not only realized but possibly even exceeded. However, caution is advised: to maintain a favourable economy of scale, farmers should gradually increase their operations to ensure that optimum benefits or profit margins are being maintained by keeping production costs at a minimum. In addition, is the stock distribution activity smoothly coordinated? Is the community present to celebrate this event and to extend their full support? Does the in-kind loan scheme work well? Of course, these critical activities need to be closely monitored.

How should rabbit production be monitored on farms? First, it is recommended that a simple checklist form be used to assess the present status of the rabbit enterprise on each farm visited.

As a guide, Table 3 provides a sample of questions that could be asked of the farmer.


Table 3.  Performance checklist used to determine rabbit project status on farms relating to internal factors1

Yes     No

Question

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___

___     ___    

___     ___
___     ___

___     ___

Rabbits appear healthy?                                                       

Buck(s) and does are producing?                                    

Kits/fryers are well developed?                                       

Adequate shelter?                                                             

Protection from predators and thieves?                  

Hutches/equipment are clean and well maintained?            

Good variety of suitable feeds is being used?                      

Forage or garden plots are well managed?                            

Water is available?                                                              

Manure is being recycled on farm?                                      

Family involvement is evident?                                            

Rabbit meat is being consumed regularly?                         

Surplus fryers are being sold?                                             

Records up-to-date?

1Adapted from Lukefahr 1992


The rabbit expert who is performing the supervisory visits should always ask to see records to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. After the farm visits are completed for the period, it is useful to examine the checklist responses to determine if a general problem possibly exists. For example, if on several farms, rabbits have health problems or if newborn litters are not surviving, an informal refresher training meeting should be held on a local farm to discuss the problem and identify practical solutions. Obviously, timing is critical. Further, such a session should be followed by a community meeting where the problem and solutions are presented so as to keep the community abreast of project developments. Remember, this is a community project.

Monitoring of the project's components or objectives should also include direct measures of production and other activities that can be analyzed. To illustrate, Figure 3 is a bar graph used to compare mean litter size by season or quarter.



Figure 3.
  Mean litter size at market age by season (quarter) and by village project site
The target is at least five fryers


Only the Ricardo village site is on track. This is because under less-than-ideal conditions in lesser developed countries, the aim is for 5 marketable fryers per litter from does producing four litters per year (Lukefahr and Cheeke 1991). Changes need to be made to bring the other village sites up to speed. In other words, determine the problem and fix it promptly!

The production objective is pivotal to the goal of consumption of rabbit meat by the family and the marketing of surplus fryers. During farmer visits, records of consumption and marketing also need to be closely monitored. Graphs can show, for example, monthly trends in the family's frequency of rabbit meat consumptions, as well as fryer sales to determine if project targets are being met. It is useful to interview the farmer to determine if improvements in the children's health, attendance and grades at school, etc., have been recognized. For major projects, it is advised that a professional nutritionist or health worker be closely involved to conduct scientific-based, controlled trials to assess possible nutritional and(or) health impact. During the same interview, other questions could include what recipes are being used and do they invite their neighbours to meals featuring rabbit meat?

Simple financial records should also be examined. Again, it is critical that production costs be kept at a minimum. A simple marketing system needs to be developed, which also requires close monitoring. In developing countries, the best system generally involves the collection of farmers' fryers from a central pick-up point, usually at a farm. From the pick-up point, the delivery and sales of live and uniform fryers to the business vendor takes place. Farmers are paid in cash after subtracting transportation costs. As markets are developed and expanded, caution is needed to avoid the possibility of flooding the market. A good programme makes efforts to ensure that demand exceeds the current supply, and that rabbit meat is sold at a competitive price compared to popular meats (Hoffman et al 2004). Of course, records reflecting centralized marketing activities are necessary to determine the economic impact of the rabbit programme, especially later when the programme is evaluated.

Later, as local project leaders are being developed from the ranks of successful rabbit farmers, their activities also need to be monitored. As an apprentice, each farmer leader trainee should be taken out to the field where they can observe first-hand how the rabbit expert practically assists farmers so that such skills can be developed. In due time, the expert allows the leader to play an increasingly major role in the activities of informal farmer training and on-farm supervision (i.e., technical advice). The farmer leader will also serve as a source of information to obtain breeding stock, forage materials, marketing opportunities, etc. Later, records could be maintained of such farmer leader activities. The farmer leader's knowledge can also be assessed through the use of pre- and post-test instruments. Perhaps the most important human element is that the leader has a strong zeal towards project success, evident by a high level of enthusiasm and pride, which is contagious to other farmers. For all his efforts, his reward is the success of the rabbit project as it multiplies and impacts additional farm families in his community.
 

Project evaluation

All rabbit projects should receive a formal evaluation once the life or period of active funding of the project has ended. Unfortunately, many failed rabbits had neither a feasibility nor an evaluation report prepared, or both. No wonder the project failed! An evaluation or final report is always required by the donor agency. In fact, for multi-year projects, many organizations require periodic progress reports (e.g., quarterly or semi-annually), and have even developed their own forms for this purpose. If a rabbit scientist was awarded a grant that involved outreach to rabbit farmers, then the final progress report can usually serve the purpose of a project evaluation. It is also useful to transform the evaluation report into a manuscript for publication in a widely-circulated or refereed journal. An excellent guide on how to evaluate projects is by the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service (ACVAFS 1983).

Why do we evaluate projects? So that we can document, share or even publish valuable information from lessons learned during the life of the project. If the project was a big success, then what factor(s) accounted for the success so that it can be adopted to make future projects even better? Instead, if the programme was a failure, then what factor(s) was identified in the report that should be avoided in planning future projects, so that the same mistake is not repeated (to prevent waste of money, time, and resources). Certainly, there are cases where the cause of project failure could not be avoided (e.g., a natural disaster). Lukefahr (2004) reported on several common reasons for project failure, which includes:

  1. a feasibility study was never conducted;
  2. low level of community participation;
  3. limited markets;
  4. lack of a rabbit expert;
  5. poor training and(or) on-farm supervision of farmers; and
  6. no effective project multiplication (i.e., no increase in numbers of new rabbit farmers).

A rabbit project usually receives a goal-based evaluation (Lukefahr 1992). That is, the evaluation focuses on the programme's goal. However, since the realization of the goal depends on its supporting and measurable objectives, then the evaluation should direct a focus on each of the objectives. In this paper, the five project components include:

  1. farmer training;
  2. stock distribution;
  3. rabbit production;
  4. marketing/consumption; and
  5. leadership development.

If this was a large and well-funded project, then a major evaluation needs to be done whereby an evaluation team is formed and each objective may be designated to an expert (e.g., a training specialist, a rabbit expert, an economist, and a nutritionist). Needless to say, it is vital that a comprehensive and unbiased evaluation report be prepared. Instead, if this was a small rabbit project, then the project manager or principal investigator may do the evaluation. It also goes without saying that the community should actively participate in the evaluation process because it is their project. At a community meeting, the purpose for the evaluation should be carefully explained, as well as the critical need for their involvement.

A valuable instrument to the evaluator(s) is the original project design, as well as the periodic progress reports. For the large projects, each team member will require additional records. For example, the economist will ask for photocopies of financial records of central rabbit marketing activities and from a representative sample of farmers. Also, each evaluator might wish to interview farmers or even meet with the community to ask specific questions about their own perception of the project's impact. This information should also be included in the evaluation report. A helpful schematic showing the stages of project evaluation is provided in Figure 4.



Figure 4.
  The project evaluation clock (Source: Lukefahr 1992)


For each of the five objectives or project components, the task is simply to determine and to quantify the level of activity. To illustrate, for the training objective, the key question for the evaluator(s) is: How many farmers were trained and was training effective? This part of the evaluation report will also provide a narrative account of the training approach and reasons or evidence of how it was or was not effective (i.e., lessons learned). The same evaluation strategy is used for the other objectives or project components. Of course, the report is chockfull of situations that occurred that were dealt with, such as constraints or limitations, disasters or opportunities, and spin-offs (unplanned benefits of the project). An example of spin-offs was a project in Egypt where parents became functionally literate as a result of their children teaching them how to keep rabbit records and by reading the instructional manuals to them.

A good evaluation report concludes with a retrospective short list of recommendations in terms of what factors were an asset (i.e., helped to make the project a success) and what factors were a liability. The lessons learned from the evaluation should soon be shared with the community during a meeting. To reiterate, the evaluation is most useful in planning future projects to be even more successful (Bunch1982).
 

Conclusions

References

Aaker J 1994 Livestock for a Small Earth. Seven Locks Press. Washington D C

ACVAFS 1983 Evaluation Sourcebook for Private and Voluntary Organizations. ICE Publication #CD019. New York

Bunch R 1982 Two Ears of Corn. World Neighbors. Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Hoffman L C, Nkhabutlane P, de Schutte W and Vosloo C 2004 Factors affecting the purchasing of rabbit meat: a study of ethnic groups in the Western Cape. Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Science 32, 26-35

Lukefahr S D 1992 A Trainer's Manual for Meat Rabbit Project Development. A Heifer Project International Publication. Little Rock, AR, USA

Lukefahr S D 2004 Sustainable and alternative systems of rabbit production. In Proceedings of the 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico, 1452-1464 http://www.dcam.upv.es/8wrc/

Lukefahr S D and Cheeke P R 1991 Rabbit project development strategies in subsistence farming systems. World Animal Review 68, 60-70 http://www.fao.org/docrep/U4900T/u4900T0m.htm



Received 21 March 2007; Accepted 12 April 2007; Published 1 May 2007

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