Over the last decade Kenyan government has been supporting rabbit research and development activities. The efforts were aimed at raising the productivity of the small holders rabbit producers as a cheap and ease source of animal protein in the rural areas of Kenya despite presence of pulses. But inspite of the efforts rabbit production in Buuri Sub county stands at 1.2 Metric tons of meat against a potential of 8.4 Metric tons per year. This productivity gap is wide and indicative of poor and low performance of the enterprise in rural areas of Kenya and specifically Buuri Sub County. Thus the main objective of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of rabbit production so as to increase its productivity through a better use of the factors engaged in its production and hence increase producer incomes and nutrient security of the people in Buuri Sub- County, Meru County. The study was based on a sample of study of 139 respondents, selected using a Multi stage random sampling procedure. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire administered on household heads. The study used descriptive statistics for the analysis of socioeconomic and institutional attributes of the rabbit producers. The stochastic frontier production and cost functions which are parametric methods were used for the efficiency analysis. The results showed mean technical, economic and allocative efficiencies among the rabbit farms were 36.83%, 39.54%and 13.46% respectively. The results indicated that allocative inefficiencies are more critical than the technical inefficiencies in impacting on economic efficiency of the rabbit producers. This suggests that the farmers were not minimizing production costs, indicating that they are not utilizing the inputs in the correct proportions given the input prices and technology.The farmers are not producing the rabbit output at minimum costs. Further the study found that the capital is the most important rabbit output enhancing variable among all studied parameters. The 2-limit Tobit model results indicated that allocative efficiency of the smallholder rabbit producers was positively influenced by education level, farming experience, farm size and training contacts at 5% level. The study concluded that the sources of allocative inefficiencies were brought by the level education and household size amongst the rabbit producers. The study therefore, recommends encouragement of young farmers to actively participate in agriculture, enhancing market environment, increasing incentives to farmers to allocate more land and capital increased rabbit production. Likewise increased access to farmer education, improved farmer-extension and research linkage and credit to the farmers led to improved rabbit efficiency, hence increased rabbit output and farm incomes.

Background Information 
Kenya's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture which contributes to rural employment, foreign exchange earnings and rural incomes all of which are important such that any broad-based improvement in rural living standards requires substantial productivity growth of agriculture (Nyoro and Jayne, 2005). Agriculture accounts for about 26% of Kenya‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment to over 80% of the population in the rural areas. Within the agricultural sector the livestock subsector contributes 10% of the GDP and accounts for 30% of farm gate value of agricultural products. Livestock production is a major economic and social activity for all rural communities in Kenya. Despite this high contribution from the sub sector to the national economy, it receives less than 2% annual Government of Kenya (GoK) allocations for its development (Nyange et al., 2000). 

Rabbits are micro-livestock mammals in the family of Leporidae are found in several parts of the world. They are kept by humans for commercial purposes or as pets. The rabbits are also part of the domesticated animals originating from one species of the European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) found across Europe and Northern Africa. Further, also they vary in colour,body size, and weight (1.4 to 7.3 kg). Some have small, erect ears while others have long hanging ears. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe and the young are referred to as kids (DLP, GOK 2010). The main challenges in rabbitry are poor resource use, marketing and inadequate credit hence low enterprise productivity ( Kavoi et al ., 2010, Lebas et al ., 1997; Onifade et al ., 1999;Oseni et al ., 2008).). 

The rabbit enterprise has the potential to be a cheap and sustainable means of producing high quality animal protein for the expanding human population in Kenya. Rabbits can be reared on cheap diets of forages and kitchen leftovers. They also utilize herbage (forages) more efficiently than cattle, shoats and the rabbits poses minimal competition with humans for similar food (Lukerfahr and Cheeke, 1997; Borter et al ., 2010).With good care a doe can produce up to 40 young ones per year compared with 0.8 for cows and 1.4 for ewes per year. Moreover small scale rabbit enterprises can be established at very minimal costs to the rural poor farmers in SSA (Lukerfahr and Goldman, 1985). 

One of the Kenya‘s key food production objectives is to have the country achieve food self sufficiency in all the food products including meat and meat products at all the times (DLP- GOK, 2010). This policy is based on the fact that an analysis of projected demand of meat and meat products indicates a large deficit of the domestic supply especially for the poor. The high poverty levels and malnutrition incidences in the country has pushed the government to prioritize rabbit development in Kenya over the last decade. This is because rabbit enterprise is a cheap and easy source of meat, incomes and employment to Kenyans especially poor women and youth. 

The National Livestock Development Strategy stresses and emphasizes on all stakeholder involvement and professionalism in the provision of all livestock development activities and programmes (Borter et al., 2010, Lebas et al ., 1997; Onifade et al ., 1999;Oseni et al ., 2008). This is geared towards the goal of poverty alleviation, food security and wealth creation in the country. Livestock enterprises productivity and efficiency in resource use at the farm level is key to the attainment of these goals. Currently, however, most production systems including the rabbit production are predominantly subsistence low input/low output system. This may suggest production inefficiencies resulting to the low yields of the rabbit enterprises over the years despite livestock development services by the ministry of livestock development in Kenya (Borter et al., 2010, Osen et al .,2008). 

Rabbit production in Buuri Sub County is an enterprise practised dominantly under small scale intensive management circumstances and economic efficiency is anticipated in such systems. Nevertheless rabbit production at farm level is low and stands at 1.2 metric tons of meat compared to the potential of 8.4 metric tons against a demand of over 20 metric tonnes of rabbit products per year (DLP-GOK, Annual Report, 2010). The average farm level rabbit live body weights is 0.5 kilogram while on research sites, mature rabbits weigh up to 8 kilograms. Likewise, the growth rates of the rabbits vary in big margins (KARI, 2005; Borter et al., 2010, Osen et al 2008).The small holder rabbit farmers are not able to produce maximum output with the given inputs. This may be due failure of the producers to combine inputs in the correct proportions at given factor prices to produce optimally or are prone to random inefficiency factors beyond the farmer‘s control. This raises the questions of production inefficiencies in the rabbit subsector. Empirical evidence suggests that improving the productivity of the small holder rabbit farmers is important for economic and rural development especially in the developing countries in SSA. This is because small holder agriculture provides a source of employment and a more equitable distribution of incomes in the rural areas of the developing countries (Bravo- Uretta and Evanson, 1994). 

Studies by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have shown that developing countries are where critical meat shortages‘ exist and the potential of rabbit production is greatest. The cost of beef, mutton and poultry in the Kenya is high like in the other sub Saharan countries. Moreover, the increasing awareness on health foods by consumers and rabbits being a cheap and nutritionally safe source of proteins especially to all especially the young, sick and elderly . These reasons have motivated many farmers to engage in rabbit rearing in the country (Wanyoike et al., 2012). Public and private actors are also taking the enterprise seriously and are now playing an active role in popularizing it. This is because they realize that raising rabbits is a worthwhile venture for food security and wealth creation in Kenya (Wanyoike et al., 2012). 

Since the rabbit sector productivity and production is low, there is necessity to establish technical and allocative efficiencies of small holder rabbit production in the rural areas of Kenya (Borter et al ., 2010). Technically efficient farmers would ideally be highly productive because they are able to use minimum level of inputs to produce a high level of outputs or produce maximum output from a given level of inputs. Likewise, allocatively efficient farmers run more profitable farming enterprises as they are able to produce a given level of output at minimum costs. This study will lead to improving the economic efficiency of rabbit rearing in the study area and thus a flourishing rabbit sector in Kenya. 

Statement of the Problem 
Over the last decade Kenyan government has supported rabbit research and development activities, efforts aimed at raising the productivity of the small holder‘s rabbit production as a cheap and ease source of animal protein in the rural areas of Kenya despite presence of pulses. Efforts towards development of the subsector in Kenya have focused on rabbit technology transfer and extension services .Despite the efforts directed at improving small holder rabbit production over the years low productivity remains a major challenge in the subsector. The current meat production of rabbit enterprises at the farm level stands at 1.2 metric tons against a recorded potential of 8.4 metric tons per year in Kenya. This productivity gap is wide and indicative of poor and low performance of the enterprise in rural areas of Kenya and specifically Buuri Sub County. One of the reasons attributed to this trend could lie in the way smallholder rabbit farmers use their resources. No studies have been undertaken to evaluate the efficiency of resource use in rabbit production in Buuri Sub County. The study aims at filling this knowledge gap by evaluating the efficiency of the smallholder rabbit farmers and determining the key socioeconomic and institutional factors that influence their efficiency 

Objectives of the Study 
Broad Objective 
The main objective of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of rabbit production so as to increase its productivity through a better use of the factors engaged in its production and thus increase producer incomes and nutrient security in Buuri Sub- County, Meru County. 

Specific Objectives 
The specific objectives of this study were: 
1. To characterize the socioeconomic and institutional attributes of rabbit producers. 
2. To determine the level of allocative, technical and economic efficiency of rabbit production. 
3. To determine the socioeconomic and institutional factors influencing level of allocative, technical and economic efficiency of rabbit producers 

Research questions and Hypotheses of the Study 
Research question 
What are the socioeconomic and institutional characteristics of the smallholder rabbit producers in Buuri Sub County? 

1. Rabbit producers are not allocatively, technically and economically efficient. 
2. Institutional and socioeconomic factors do not significantly influence the level of allocative, technical and economic efficiency of rabbit producers. 

Justification of the Study. 
Rabbit enterprise is gaining lots of popularity among the rural farmers in Kenya. This arises from a growing market demand for the rabbits and its products due to population growth, urbanization and tourism in Kenya. With declining land size holdings, rabbit keeping has the advantage of low demand on land and feed resources. In addition rabbits require limited supplementation: weeds , vegetables and kitchen left-over‘s are enough for their feeding. This means rabbits pose little competition for food with humans yet they are highly prolific , early maturing, fast growth rate, and efficient in feed conversion and hence more productive compared to other farm animals. For these reasons the rabbit enterprise is attractive to both rural and peri-urban farmers. The potential benefits of rabbit keeping and its convenience as a cheap source of money and food to the resource poor households in Kenya are immense and not fully exploited. 

Agricultural enterprises productivity, efficiency in the use of the available resources at the farm level does determine the enterprise output and productivity. This is true in developing countries where factors of production are limited and scarce. Small holder rabbit keeping economic efficiency is not evident given the declining productivity over the years. This study of economic efficiency of rabbit farming enterprise is timely and will help farmers benefit from the rapidly growing demand for rabbit products in Kenya. The results would help the development planners and policy makers in understanding constraints and challenges facing the rabbit farmers and also the opportunities in the rabbit value chain. This will facilitate the setting of proper strategies for the development of vibrant rabbit sector in Kenya. Moreover this will increase the income base for the farmers and consequently reduce the poverty levels .These will contribute in the attainment of the Governments of Kenya (GoKs) development goals, Sustainable development goals (SDGs) and vision 2030 in Kenya. 

Scope and Limitations of the Study 
This study was conducted in Buuri Sub County in Meru County. This is because of the extensiveness, intensity and dominance of rabbit farming in the study area and the high poverty levels in comparison to the other sub counties in Meru County. The rabbit breed types kept was not considered as an efficiency influencing circumstance in this study. Due to lack of farm records among farmers, the study mainly relied on the farmer‘s memory and their recall capacity in the collection of the study data by the enumerators. To improve validity and quality of the data collected, the researcher did proper training of the enumerators on probing, interview skills. The study was limited to backyard rabbit farming enterprises in a household due to its dominance among the farmers in the study area. 

Definition of Terms 
Backyard farming enterprises: Farming activities that are practiced within homestead by the farmers. They can be for food or income generation and do contribute significantly to poverty reduction and food security in the rural areas. 

Rabbit keeping: This is the art and science of keeping rabbit for meat, fur, pet animals or as laboratory animals. 

Rabbit breeds: These are the type of rabbits that are kept by the farmers. The popular rabbit breeds in Kenya are California, chinchilla, Flemish Giant, and the New Zealand White and their crosses. 

Allocative efficiency: Measures a production farms ability to choose the input combination that minimizes cost of production given the best available technology. 

Technical efficiency refers to the ability of a firm / farm to avoid wastage either by producing as much output as technology allows and input usage allow or by using as little input as required by technology and output production. Technical efficiency has, therefore, both an input conserving and output promoting argument. According to Koopmans (1951), a producer is technically efficient if an increase in any output requires a reduction in at least one other output or an increase in at least one input, and if a reduction in any input required an increase in at least one other input or reduction in at least one output. Technically efficient producer could produce the same output with less of at least one input or could use the same input to produce more of at least one output 

Economic efficiency: Economic efficiency is a product of the two components namely: technical and allocative efficiencies. 

Efficiency: is a term often used interchangeably with productivity in economics literatures. It refers to how well a system or unit of production performs in the use of resources to produce outputs given available technology relative to a standard (frontier) production. Productivity on the other hand is definable in terms of individual resources or a combination of them (Fried, 2008). Ideally, efficiency is inherently unobservable while its estimation is often derived indirectly after taking into account relevant phenomenon, usually the relationship between outputs, inputs, their prices and the behavioural objectives of the production units of interest (Nguyen and Coelli, 2009).

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 94 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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