Rabbit production in low-input systems in Africa: situation, knowledge and perspectives – A review


  • S.O. Oseni Department of Animal Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
  • S.D. Lukefahr Department of Animal, Rangeland and Wildlife Sciences, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, KINGSVILLE, TX 78363




rabbits, research and development, smallholder units, low-input systems, poverty alleviation, Africa


High poverty levels continue to plague much of Africa despite several intervention strategies aimed to stem the tide. The role of small livestock like rabbits as a tool in poverty alleviation programmes has been acknowledged for decades and successful national rabbit projects have clearly been demonstrated in Africa. With rising poverty levels across Africa, the need to rejuvenate such national rabbit projects for long-term sustainability becomes apparent. This presentation focuses on the status of rabbit production in Africa, with special attention to smallholder rabbit project development and its connection with poverty alleviation issues in the continent and with an emphasis on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and barriers to the system. A special case is made for the sustainable development of smallholder, low-input rabbit production systems in Africa on account of their popularity, low investment requirements and low economic risks, as well as their contributions to family nutrition, income generation and gender empowerment. Successful rabbit projects in several countries across Africa were identified and the reasons for success, as well as lessons learned, are discussed. In all, several cases standout: the National Rabbit Project of Ghana, the Heifer Project International Rabbit Project in Cameroon, and CECURI Rabbit Project in Benin Republic. Other fast-paced and moderately developed rabbit industries (e.g. in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria) are recognised. Critical constraints to rabbit project development (e.g. non-implementation of sustainable models for low-input rabbit units and absence of client-focused research and development programmes) are noted. Prospects for the development of sustainable smallholder rabbit production models are discussed, which include the following: a paradigm shift among researchers to focus on innovative research related to the development of sustainable backyard rabbit production systems; upscaling of sound practices in smallholder rabbit units across regions; use of local value chains in smallholder rabbit development and setting up regional networks of smallholder family rabbit projects. The actualisation of these goals requires a sustainability research agenda that focuses more on backyard rabbit farmers as the primary beneficiaries. Overall, the need for a poverty focus and a pro-poor research agenda involving owners of backyard rabbits are emphasised.


Download data is not yet available.


Aaker J. 2007. Heifer Model. Cornerstones Values-based Development. Heifer International Publishers, Little Rock, AR, USA. 160 pp.

Adu E., Paterson R., Rojas F., Laswai G., Fielding D., Osafo E. 2005. Grasscutters, Guinea Pigs and Rabbits. In: Owen E., Kitalyi, A., Jayasuriya, N. and Smith, T. (eds.). Livestock and Wealth Creation. DFID, LPP. Nottingham University Press, 325-340.

Aduma J.P. 1979. Coccidiosis in rabbits. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December 1978, 155-162.

Akoutey A., Kpodekon M.T., Bannelier C., Gidenne T. 2012. Nutritive value of sun-dried Pueraria phaseoloides for rabbits under tropical conditions. World Rabbit Sci., 20: 209-213. doi:10.4995/wrs.2012.1230

Bang J.K. 1999. Participatory research with farmers: Lessons gained from postgraduate training courses in Vietnam. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 11. Available at http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd11/2/bang112.htm Accessed: September, 2012.

Belli P., Fontana E., Sommariva M., Scarpelli L., Rucci C., Luzi F., Haddad B. 2008. The Tunisian traditional rabbit system versus the commercial system: an epidemiological perspective. World Rabbit Sci., 16: 221-228. doi:10.4995/wrs.2008.617

Bhandari D. 2008. Heifer International and sustainable livestock development. The Exchange, Issue 129, Spring, 2008, 1-2. A Bulletin of Heifer International, Little Rock, AR, USA

Cheeke P.R. 1986. Potentials of rabbit production in tropical and sub-tropical agricultural systems. J. Anim. Sci., 63: 1581-1586.

Cherfaoui DJ., Theau-Clement M., Zerrouki N., Berchiche M. 2013. Reproductive performance of male rabbits of Algerian local population. World Rabbit Sci. 2013, 21: 91-99. doi:10.4995/wrs.2013.1173

CIA. 2012. Central Intelligence Agency. Country Reports. Accessed at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/print_2046.html

Clavel C., Hernández E., Herrera J., Hernández V., Hernández D. 2004. Small cuniculture family farms on the south coast of Guerrero State, Mexico. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico. 7-10 September, 2004. 146-1470.

Colin M., Lebas F. 1996. Rabbit meat production in the world. A proposal for every country. In Proc.: 6th World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France. 9-12 July, 1996. Vol. 3, 323-330.

Conroy C., Thakur Y., Vadher M. 2002. The efficacy of participatory development of technologies: experiences with resourcepoor goat-keepers in India. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 14. Available at: http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd143/conr143.htm Accessed: October, 2011.

Demeterova M., Pereira C.I., Dade A.C. 1991. Rabbit production under tropical conditions in Mozambique. World Animal Review, 69: 36-43.

Djago Y.A., Kpodekon M., Lebas F. 2007. Le Guide pratique de l’éleveur de lapins en Afrique de l’Ouest (Practical manual for rabbit breeding in Western Africa. - Manual in French). 2ème édition révisée. Available at: http://www.cuniculture.info/Docs/Elevage/Tropic-01.htm Accessed: October, 2011.

Dolberg F. 2001. A livestock development approach that contributes to poverty alleviation and widespread improvement nutrition among the poor. Livest. Res. Rural Dev., 13, Available at: http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd13/5/dolb135.htm Accessed: September, 2012.

El-Raffa A.M. 2004. Rabbit production in hot climates. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico. 7-10 September, 2004. 1172-1180.

Falconer D.S., Mackay T.F.C. 1996. Introduction to Quantitative Genetics. 4th Edition, Longman. 235-239.

Finzi A. 2000. Integrated Backyard Systems. FAO, Publications Division. Availiable at: http://www.fao.org/ag/AGAinfo/themes/documents/ibys Accessed: August, 2012.

Finzi A. 2008. Rabbit production development, new strategies to avoid conflict between use of natural resources for food and feed. In: R. Preston and Nguyen Van Thu (eds.). Proc. of the International Workshop on Organic Rabbit Farming based on Forages. Cantho University, Vietnam, 25-27 November, 2008. Available at: http://www.mekarn.org/prorab/Finzi.htm Accessed: August, 2012.

Finzi A., Amici A. 1996. Unconventional feeding techniques for rabbits in developing countries. In Proc.: 6th World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France. 9-12 July, 1996.

Finzi A., Nyvold, S., El Agroudi M. 1992. Evaluation of heat stress in rabbits under field conditions. J. Applied Rabbit Res., 15: 739-744.

Gacem M, Zerrouki, N., Lebas, F., Bolet, G. 2008. Strategy for developing rabbit meat production in Algeria: creation and selection of a synthetic strain. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress,Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 85- 91.

Galal E.S.E., Khalil M.H. 1994. Development of rabbit industry in Egypt. CIHEAM – Options Mediterraneennes, 43-53.

Gaspari D. 1979. Rabbit breeding production in Mozambique. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania. December, 1978. 43-48.

IFS 1979. Provisional Report Number 4. Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania. December, 1978. 112.

Kamande W. 2010. Where rabbit meat competes with ‘Githeri’. The Standard, February, 2010. 18.

Kamel L., Lukefahr S.D. 1990. A note on the social impact of village scale rabbit project development in rural Egypt. J. Applied Rabbit Res., 12: 259-262.

Kaplan-Pasternak M. 2011. Promoting entrepreneurial opportunities through rabbit production in Haiti. Rabbit Production in Developing Countries. 4. World Rabbit Science Association. Available at: http://world-rabbit-science.com

Kaplan-Pasternak M., Lukefahr S.D. 2011. WRSA project: Rabbit project development in response to the earthquake disaster in Haiti. Interim Report to the World Rabbit Science Association. Available at: http://world-rabbit-science.com

Khalil M.H., Al-Saef A.M. 2008. Methods, criteria, techniques and genetic responses for rabbit selection: a review. In: Proceedings, 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 1-22.

Kpodekon M., Coudert P. 1993. Impact of a rabbit research and information centre on research activity and development of rabbit production in Benin. World Rabbit Sci., 1: 25-30. doi:10.4995/wrs.1993.192

Kpodekon M., Gnimadi A., Djago Y., Bhouin S. Faorugou S. 2000. Rabbit production and network in Benin in 1998. In Proceedings, 7th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico. 7-10 September, 2004.

Kumar D., Risam K.S., Bhatt R.S., Singh U. 2013. Reproductive performance of different breeds of broiler rabbits under subtemperate climatic conditions. World Rabbit Sci., 21: 169-173. doi:10.4995/wrs.2013.1196

Lakabi D., Zerrouki N., Lebas F., Berchiche M. 2004. Growth performance and slaughter traits of a local Kabylian population of rabbits reared in Algeria: effects of sex and rearing season. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico. 7-10 September, 2004. 1396-1402.

Lebas F., Coudert P., de Rochambeau H., Thebault R.G. 1997. The Rabbit: Husbandry, Health and Production. 2nd Edition. FAO Rome.

Lukefahr S.D. 1998a. Review of global rabbit genetic resources: special emphasis on breeding programmes and practices in lesser developed countries. Animal Genetic Resources Information, 23: 49-67. doi:10.1017/S1014233900001073

Lukefahr S.D. 1998b. Rabbit production in Uganda: Potential vs. opportunity. World Rabbit Sci., 6: 331-340. doi:10.4995/wrs.1998.365

Lukefahr S.D. 1999a. Teaching international animal agriculture. J. Anim. Sci., 77: 3106-3113.

Lukefahr S.D. 1999b. Small-scale rabbit production in the Western Hemisphere: Back to basics? World Rabbit Sci., 7: 87-94. doi:10.4995/wrs.1999.384

Lukefahr S.D. 2000. National Rabbit Project of Ghana: a genetic case study. ICAR Technical Series 3, 307-317.

Lukefahr S.D. 2002. Opportunities for rabbit research and human development in the western hemisphere: a rabbit revolution: World Rabbit Sci., 10: 111-115. doi:10.4995/wrs.2002.483

Lukefahr S.D. 2004. Sustainable and alternative systems of rabbit production. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico. 7-10 September, 2004. 1452-1464.

Lukefahr S.D. 2007. The small-scale rabbit production model: intermediate factors. Livest. Res. Rural Dev., 19, Article Number 69. Available at: http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd19/5/luke19069.htm Accessed: September, 2007.

Lukefahr S.D. 2010. Developing Sustainable Rabbit Projects. (2nd ed.). Heifer International Publishers. Little Rock, AR. USA, 165.

Lukefahr S.D. 2011. Partners of the Americas / Farmer to Farmer Programme Report. World Rabbit Science Association. Available at: http://users.tamuk.edu/kfsdl00/trip%20report%20by%20lukefahr.pdf Accessed: August, 2012.

Lukefahr S.D., Cheeke P.R. 1991a. Rabbit project development strategies in subsistence farming systems. 1. Practical considerations. World Animal Rev., 69: 26-35.

Lukefahr S.D., Cheeke P.R. 1991b. Rabbit project development strategies in subsistence farming systems. 2. Research applications. World Animal Rev., 69: 60-70.

Lukefahr S.D., Goldman M. 1985. A technical assessment of production and economic aspects of small-scale rabbit farming in Cameroon. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 8: 126-135.

Lukefahr S.D., Atakora J.K.A., Opoku E.M. 1992. Heritability of 90-day body weight in domestic rabbits from tropical Ghana, West Africa. J. Heredity, 83: 105-108.

Lukefahr S.D., Nkwocha H.I., Njakoh H., Tawah E., Akob J.M., Kongyu F.A., Njwe R.M., Gudahl D. 2000. Present status of the Heifer Project International – Cameroon Rabbit Programme: Back to the future. World Rabbit Sci., 8: 75-83. doi:10.4995/wrs.2000.423

Mamattah N. 1979. Sociological aspects of introducing rabbits into farm practices. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 93-99.

McNitt J.I. 1979. Methods of smallholder rabbit production. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 100-112.

Morand-Fehr P., Boutonnet J.I., Devendra C., Dubeuf J.P., Haenlein G.F.W., Holst P., Mowlem L., Capote J. 2004. Strategy for goat farming in the 21st century. Small Ruminant Research, 51: 175-183. doi:10.1016/j.smallrumres.2003.08.013

Odeyinka S.M., Oyedele O.J., Adeleke T.O., Odedire J.A. 2008. Reproductive performance of rabbits fed Moringa oleifera as a replacement for Centrosema pubescens. In Proc.:, 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 411-415.

Onifade A.A., Abu O.A., Obiyan R.I., Abanikannda, O.T.F. 1999. Rabbit production in Nigeria: Some aspects of the current status and promotional strategies. World Rabbit Sci., 7: 51- 58. doi:10.4995/wrs.1999.380

Onwudike O.C. 1995. Use of legume tree crops Gliricidia sepium and Leucaena leucocephala as green feeds for growing rabbits. Anim. Feed Sci. Tech., 51, 153-163. doi:10.1016/0377-8401(94)00643-N

Opoku E.M., Lukefahr S.D. 1990. Rabbit production and development in Ghana: The National Rabbit Project experience. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 13: 189-192.

Orunmuyi M., Bawa G.S., Adeyinka F.D., Daudu O.M., Adeyinka I.A. 2006. Effects of graded levels of palm-kernel cake on performance of grower rabbits. Pak. J. Nutr., 5: 71-74. doi:10.3923/pjn.2006.71.74

Oseni S.O. 2008. Research output and publications in rabbit science and production from sub-Saharan Africa – implications for future research and development efforts. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 1591-1596.

Oseni S.O., Ajayi B.A. Komolafe S.O. Siyanbola D., Ishola M. Madamidola G. 2008. Smallholder rabbit production in southwestern Nigeria: current status, emerging issues and way forward. In Proc.: 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 1597-1601.

Oseni S.O. 2010. Report of an exhibition by the Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya - January 2010. Project Stories from the Field. Rabbit production in developing countries. World Rabbit Science Association. Available at: http://world-rabbit-cience.com

Owen J.E. 1976. Rabbit production in tropical developing countries: a review. Trop. Sci., 18: 203-210.

Owen J.E. 1979. Rabbit production in tropical countries. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 73-92.

Owen E., Kitalyi A., Jayasuriya N., Smith T. 2005. Livestock and Wealth Creation. DFID, LPP. Nottingham University Press. Nottingham, UK.

Price M.L., Regier F. 1982. Rabbit production in the tropics. Echo Technical Note. Available at: http://www.echonet.org Accessed: February, 2012.

Poux X. 2008. Low input farming systems in Europe: what is at stake? In: Low input farming systems: opportunity to develop sustainable agriculture. In: K. Biala, J-M Terres, P. Pointeream and M. L, Paracchini (Eds.). Proceedings of the JRC Summer University, Ranco, 2-5 July, 2007. European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra, Italy. 11-22.

Ramchurm R. 1979. New feed resources for rabbits in Mauritius. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 49 -55.

Rashwan A. A., Yamani K.A. Abd El-Ghani A. I. 1997. Performance of 3 rabbit strains and their reciprocal crosses in Egypt during summer. World Rabbit Sci., 5: 55-60. doi:10.4995/wrs.1997.319

Rugh J.W. 1979. Housing of rabbits in Africa. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 171-184.

Samkol P., Lukefahr S.D. 2008. A challenging role of organic rabbit production towards poverty alleviation in South East Asia. In Proc.:, 9th World Rabbit Congress, Verona, Italy, 10-13 June, 2008. 1479-1497.

Savietto D., Blas E., Cervera C., Baselga M., Friggens N., Larsen T., Pascual J. 2012. Digestive efficiency in rabbit does according to environment and genetic type. World Rabbit Science, 20: 131-139. doi:10.4995/wrs.2012.1152

Semuguruka W. D. 1979. Observations on rabbit diseases in Tanzania. IFS Provisional Report No. 4, Rabbit Husbandry, Morogoro, Tanzania, December, 1978. 163-170.

Sivakumar K., Thiruvenkadan A., Ramesh Saravana Kumar V., Muralidharan J., Anandha Prakash Singh D., Saravanan R., Jeyakumar M. 2013. Analysis of production and reproduction performances of Soviet Chinchilla and White Giant rabbits in tropical climatic conditions of India. World Rabbit Sci., 21: 101-106. doi:10.4995/wrs.2013.1208

Somade B., Adesina A. 1990. Influence of the breed of doe and season on the growth rate of rabbits. Beitr. Trop. Vet. Med., 28: 175-183.

World Bank 2008. World Development Report, 2008. Agriculture for Development, The World Bank, Washington, DC. 386 pp. Available at: http://www.ukfg.org.uk/ docs/wdr2008.pdf Accessed: April, 2012.

Zeising C. 2000. Rabbit production in Ciskei – Do more than ten years of existence prove sustainable development? In Proc.: 7th World Rabbit Congress, Valencia, Spain, 4-7 July, 2000. Vol B., 141-148.

Zerrouki N., Bolet G., Berchiche M., Lebas F. 2004. Breeding performance of a local Kabylian rabbit does in Algeria. In Proc.: 8th World Rabbit Congress, Puebla, Mexico, 7-10 September, 2004. 371-377.

Zerrouki N., Kadi S.A., Lebas F., Bolet G. 2007. Characterization of a Kabylian population of rabbits in Algeria. World Rabbit Sci., 15: 111-114. doi:10.4995/wrs.2007.600

Zeweil H., Elnagar S., Zahran S., Ahmed M., El-Gindy Y. 2013. Pomegranate peel as a natural antioxidant boosts bucks' fertility under Egyptian summer conditions. World Rabbit Sci., 21: 33-39. doi:10.4995/wrs.2013.1209