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Focus on . . . Minilivestock

Rabbits, snails and guinea pig tales are some of the activities that we focus on this month's edition of New Agriculturist as we highlight a few of the animals that are currently not utilized to their full potential. Many small animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, have been used by man for thousands of years and continue to be hunted or gathered from the wild. Habitat destruction or over-exploitation now threaten many, but not all, of these species. However, these species still have much to offer. As populations grow and farms get smaller, the protein requirements of many rural people will have to increasingly be met by small, short-cycle livestock species. Those that are adaptable to a range of habitats and diets, and can provide employment and/or income, could prove a particularly worthwhile solution for many small-scale farmers.

Awareness and scientific understanding of minilivestock is increasing and the development of this sector has been shown to be sustainable by not only fulfilling nutritional and income-generating requirements but also serving to protect the environment.

Minilivestock: an expanding enterprise

The potential for minilivestock to contribute to household security is much greater than is often appreciated by many specialists and government authorities. It is especially true for developing countries where people . . .

Rodent ranching

Adaptable and prolific, many rodent species have been and continue to be a delicacy in a number of countries. Not restricted to the tropics, dormice were favoured by the Romans and they are still eaten in parts of Europe, while squirrels are a choice game animal in the US. However, it is in . . .

Gastronomic gastropods

Snail farming can be a very good business in areas where the local market is strong and where, as a result, over collecting from the bush has led to a shortage and boosted prices. Snails fit in well with other farming activities, helping to . . .

Edible insects - a culinary curiosity?

Edible insects may not be considered a delicacy in the West but for many cultures, they are an important source of protein. They can be consumed in their larval stage (e.g. grubs and caterpillars, including silkworms) or in their adult form (e.g. grasshoppers and ants). In Thailand . . .

Bees - all sweetness and light?

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is a traditional occupation of many communities worldwide, but practices of harvesting honey are often inefficient (the colony may be destroyed) and honey gathering from the wild may be dangerous (wild bees are often aggressive) and even unsustainable. However . . .

Butterflies: big, beautiful and bountiful?

The world's largest butterflies, Birdwings, are being farmed or 'ranched' by villagers in Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya to provide economic incentives to landowners to conserve valuable virgin tropical forest. Classified as a . . .

In a spin for silk

Although not usually considered a minilivestock activity, wild African silkmoths have been exploited in the past but could now be partially domesticated to generate valuable income for farmers. Asian countries are no longer producing enough raw silk to . . .

Vermiculture technology for small farmers

A simple system of vermiculture (rearing earthworms) for rapid decomposition of organic farm and home residues has been designed by an eco-technologist at Chennai, India. "This vermi-composting method can be adopted by small farmers and resource-poor marginal farmers to get wealth from waste."

Green Iguana: conservation and consumption

Large lizards, which were hunted for food by our prehistoric ancestors, continue to be of importance in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Monitor lizards are particularly popular in Asia but are carnivorous and therefore difficult to feed and raise economically. However, the green and . . .

Rabbits - a 'hare' raising experience?

Rabbit production is set to increase in the Mediterranean region after the creation of the 'International Observatory on Rabbit breeding in Mediterranean countries'. Delegates from . . .

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Further information can be found on the following organisation's web sites

International Bee Research Association (IBRA)
International Centre of Insect Physiology & Ecology (ICIPE)
Bureau for Exchange and Distribution of Information on minilivestock