Can a Rabbit Change Your Life?

Andi Thomas, Senior Program Officer, Agriculture and Food Security

In the town of Grand Boulage in the mountains of Haiti, Madame Andremene Solomon is the primary caregiver for her entire family. Her husband has a physical disability, and she earns the bulk of the income that supports their family of six. A few years ago, food security was a faraway goal for Andremene. She struggled to feed her family and could not afford to send her children to school. She is one of thousands of Haitians faced with food insecurity. 

In Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, although the average standard of living has increased in recent decades, income inequality remains widespread. Impoverished people, particularly in rural areas, still face many barriers to achieving food security, which is defined as having access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food insecurity is particularly a concern for low-income countries where Partners works, such as Haiti, which is ranked the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. 

Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program is playing a significant role in tackling some of these issues. Andremene started receiving training and assistance from F2F and local partner Makouti Agro Enterprise in 2007 as part of the rabbit production project in her town. She steadily grew her production and started increasing her income by selling rabbits to her neighbors and friends. 

In 2010, Andremene experienced a significant setback when she lost 83 rabbit offspring to what was later determined to be an unbalanced diet. She did not let this deter her though. F2F volunteers determined the source of the problem and adjusted the diets of her young rabbits to include avocados and other foods high in energy and protein. Andremene and other rabbit producers in Grand Boulage also received F2F training in recordkeeping. They now use record books to track their rabbits’ breeding, fertility and mortality rates, and other information vital to maintaining healthy animals and producing the best offspring. 

Since her involvement with F2F, Andremene has increased her household income by producing and selling rabbits, paid school tuition for all four of her children, covered family medical expenses, shared rabbit meat with her neighbors, and increased her household food consumption. She credits F2F volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, among others, for teaching her some valuable lessons about rabbit production, including the importance of checking the ears of rabbits for skin mage, and ensuring that rabbits have a protein-rich diet. 

Andremene (pictured 2nd from the right, with other producers and F2F and Makouti staff) said the best recommendation she received from a F2F volunteer was to expand the variety of food she gave her rabbits to include wheat bran, oranges, sweet potato, syrup, and salt powder. This made her rabbits stronger and prevented them from dying. For Andremene, keeping her rabbits healthy means boosting her rabbit sales, which has direct positive benefits for her family and community. Adremene is highlighted in the Partners F2F Haiti video linked below, sharing first hand her experiences with the program.

The small animal production sector has strong potential for contributing to food security and wealth creation in much of the Caribbean Basin. For small farmers in Haiti, increased small animal production and sales translates into food for family consumption in addition to growth and diversification of family income. Along with F2F in Haiti, Partners has a Nutrition Security Program (NSP) that hinges on a holistic community health, nutrition and livelihoods approach. Some of the activities under NSP promote income generation and food security through small gardens, nurseries, and animal husbandry, particularly among women. Makouti is linking up with NSP to spread the knowledge they learned through F2F to new groups. 

Although many challenges still remain, through volunteer visits, technical assistance and training, Partners' Agriculture and Food Security programs are making a long-term impact on the people they serve.