Regents Professor Steven Lukefahr assists in rebuilding rabbit farms destroyed in Nepal tremor

KINGSVILLE - June 22, 2015

Contact: Julie Navejar
or Phone: 361-593-2590

Dr. Steven Lukefahr is a Regents Professor of Animal Science at Texas A&M University-Kingsville who has spent much of his life helping others. As a world-renowned expert on meat rabbits, he has taught hundreds of thousands of people, most in developing countries, how to raise rabbits as a source of protein for their families.

Presently, Lukefahr is working with the people of Nepal to rebuild their lives using rabbits as their prime source of protein and income. The earthquake that devastated the Kathmandu region of Nepal in April not only killed people and destroyed property, it also killed hundreds of cattle and destroyed the Himalayan Rabbit Farm that provided live rabbits for local farmers and rabbit meat for retail sale.

Ujjwal Chapagain owns the Himalayan Rabbit Farm and has been in touch with Lukefahr for some time. “I have known about the farm since October 2014 when Ujjwal emailed me asking questions about rabbits,” he said. “He obtained copies of my rabbit books and I assisted him in joining the World Rabbit Science Association, or WRSA, e-discussion group, where he continued to ask even more questions of rabbit experts from around the world.

“A grant from the WRSA is helping him to rebuild and restock his own farm, which serves as a base for his work,” Lukefahr added. “We hope to get another grant from Rotary International that will assist Ujjwal as he works with poor families in the region to either start or rebuild their own rabbitries.”

“Ujjwal has been providing rabbit training to poor farmers. He knows how to set up projects using a business model approach,” Lukefahr said. “He is a business major from Pokhara University near Kathmandu.”

Lukefahr said following training, local farmers in Nepal are provided with a loan to build a small rabbitry and receive breeding stock. In a few short months, the family should start to realize the benefits of nutritious meat and much-needed income.

 “This same model has been used in many other global disaster situations I have been involved in, such as the situation in Haiti. Ujjwal had several rabbit projects started prior to the earthquake. Ujjwal recently visited the villages in the region to assess the present situation and do some rabbit retraining. Some of the farmers had lost their rabbits because of the earthquake.”

Lukefahr said rabbit farming is a great way to address the nutritional deficiencies that are widely prevalent in the rural areas of Nepal. Malnutrition is a major problem, especially involving cases of protein and iron deficiency.

Rabbit farming can be achieved with a small amount of start-up capital by utilizing locally available resources for hutch construction and feeding requirements by producing rabbit feed on seemingly barren or wasted land in the area, he said.

Lukefahr also said that the rabbit manure can be recycled to help grow organic vegetables for the household while regenerating the productive capacity of the soil.

In addition to helping the local farmers provide meat for their families, Ujjwal has been working to develop markets for rabbit meat in restaurants and hotels, Lukefahr said. If he is successful in getting more funding, Ujjwal will sell the rabbit meat with an accompanying recipe booklet and provide packaged Himalayan spices to his customers. Several rabbit products are on the drawing board, including rabbit meat seasoned or marinated with a Nepali flavor, rabbit jerky, also with a Nepali flavor, and seasoned rabbit sausage.