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Rabbit breeding - new occupation opportunities in rural areas

2010.CH04/mic-163

The number of low-income families continues to grow in Latvia, presently ranging from 6-8 percent of the population of Latvia, according to data from the Ministry of Welfare. More distant rural areas, for instance, Kandava county has more than one and a half thousand low-income families, including more than 700 children. In addition, quite often there is a lack of sufficient access to lifelong learning opportunities. Present day society and job market demand has substantially changed in terms of required knowledge and competencies - informal daily learning has become increasingly important.

Latvian Pedigree Rabbits Breeders' Association implemented a joint cooperation project with a Swiss partner aimed at improvement of quality of life for poverty exposed children, youth and seniors in counties of Kandava and Kuldiga. This project is just one among more than fifty projects that are being implemented with financial support from Swiss Confederation and the Republic of Latvia during 2011-2012 with an overall objective to reduce socio-economical disparities and to improve the quality of life of inhabitants. The project involved children and youth from poor or low-income families, unemployed youth and job seekers, as well as children and youth whose parents were residing abroad for a long time. As rabbit breeding craft is a long standing and delicate occupation in Latvia, the scope of implemented activities was quite wide.

A rabbit can mean different things to different people: it can be a household pet, or it can represent a productive farming animal for production of either meat or fur. Youth and seniors received extensive theoretical knowledge and practical skills training in “Rabbit Fan's School” for a period of five months from January till May 2011 in primary schools of Kabile (in Kuldiga county) and Vane (in Kandava county). Classes in “Rabbit Fan's School” were lead by the members of the Latvian Pedigree Rabbits Breeders' Association. Training programme comprised, among others, such subjects: history of rabbit breeding, breeding, nutrition, preparation of rabbit cages, legal aspects of rabbit keeping, basics of business management, preparation of a business plan, legal aspects of business, establishment of a farm, veterinary requirements and disease prevention. As noted by Ineta Fogele, president of the Latvian Pedigree Rabbits Breeders' Association: “This is only the beginning, now it's up to the “graduates” of the school to make a choice to move on in their lives”.

During the summer of 2011 (July), evaluation of acquired knowledge and skills was made during the two “Rabbit Fans' School” summer camps in Vane and Kabile. Upon passing an exam, young rabbit fans were granted a pair of rabbits (buck and doe) for development of their farms. Self-made rabbit cages were also given away to rabbit fans. Knowledge acquired and skills mastered by young and senior graduates of the “Rabbit Fans' School” will be of value to them in many other circumstances, as well. Such innovative approach in addressing social issues by combining learning experience with actual business opportunities is quite often almost the only practical opportunity for an occupation to chose in remote rural areas. In other words, be it a young rabbit fan or a senior, he or she is granted the “fish”, handed the “line” and what is more important - taught to “fish”. A senior lady, who participated in the project, admitted that she was so glad she learned a lot about rabbit keeping, and what's more important - she had an opportunity to spend some time among people, as living on her own in the countryside can be rather lonesome from time to time.

Experience sharing visit to Switzerland of the most successful graduates of the “Rabbit Fan's School” and representatives of the Latvian Pedigree Rabbit Breeding Association resulted in gaining of additional knowledge about European Pedigree rabbits breeding, acquisition of best practice, as well as gave people additional impetus for further development and mastering of rabbit breeder's craft. Visit to the project partner Global Hope Network International Switzerland and Swiss pedigree rabbits breeding farms provided for opportunities to establish contacts for futher cooperation, as well as to learn about work done with children and youth in Switzerland. Visit to the Museum of rabbits in Zurich was also included in the programme.

A young lady, who participated in the project, admitted upon return from the experience sharing visit to Switzerland that this trip had given her a lot of positive emotions and had inspired for further action: “I certainly wish to stay and work in Latvia, and I am going to develop rabbit breeding as one of the lines of my business”.

The Latvian Pedigree Rabbit Breeding Association plans to establish the Children and Youth Section at the Association, which would involve graduates from “Rabbit Fan's School”. It is envisaged to use Swiss pedigree rabbit breeding experience and to initiate wide scale advertising campaign of rabbit breeding craft among children and youth in order to ensure sustainability of rabbit breeding in Latvia.

Children and youth involved in the project had the opportunity to acquire the craft of rabbit breeding and to establish their own farms by receiving theoretical knowledge and practical skills, as well as initial breeding material and sef-made rabbit cages. Thus, with comparatively small amount of investment, preconditions were created for people at the risk of poverty and low-income families to supply their families with healthy and quality food, as well as opportunities were provided to start their own business in a rural area.

Article written:September 2011