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Friday, August 26, 2011

Dedza and Rabbit Production

We traveled to Dedza this week for a case that was to be held in the court there. Dedza is just over an hour from Lilongwe and build just on the foot of the aptly named Dedza mountain, which was quite beautiful, especially watching it from the court as the sun went down. It is also famous for its crafts and I would recommend a visit for anyone in the area.

Dedza Magistrate Court

Just beside the court there is the Dedza prison
On a positive note after yesterdays post what I found most interesting about the prison was that it has a rabbit breeding programme housed in the building in the photo below.

In most prison services throughout Africa, the main expense aside from staff is food for the prison ration which is invariably purchased from outside contractors. The funds allocated for these rations are often only sufficient for one meal per day (generally nsima) which is inadequate both in terms of quantity and quality. Prison farms can be a key component of a strategy to reduce malnutrition and improve both physical and mental health in prisons. Penal Reform International has produced a practical guidance document for the Malawi Prison Service Farm Development Programme and there is also a short documentary on how this can be done. The framework is drawn from farming and management practices in eastern and southern Africa and PRI’s experience in Africa. The document states that:
Rabbits are produced in prison farms for meat consumption. As the prison farms did not have enough funds to buy animals such as cows to provide them with the high quantities of feed they need, a solution was found in rearing small animals such as rabbits. Malawi.
In recent years there has been increased awareness of the advantages of rabbit meat production in developing countries as a means to alleviate world food shortages.
This is largely attributable to the rabbit's high rate of reproduction; early maturity; rapid growth rate; high genetic selection potential; efficient feed and land space utilization; limited competition with humans for similar foods; and high-quality nutritious meat (Cheeke, 1980)

Farming in this manner is a simple, cost effective and pragmatic way of improving the lives of prisoners and it has also had a knock on effect outside the prisons in that prisoners are trained in a sustainable farming method when they leave the prison.  During my research on this area I also came across this quote which is attributed to Trywell Camchepera a  former prisoner in Malawi who was trained in potato farming in Dedza.
‘This is an Irish potato farm. And I am the owner. I learned this type of farming from Dedza prison. I am getting enough yield to sustain my whole family. We are not hungry anymore […] The knowledge that I got there [in prison], nobody can take it away from me. It is a part of me.’
 I am particularly impressed by his choice of potato!

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