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[This project, initiated in 2009, was terminated in 2012.] While most of our projects come to us through Winrock International, this project actually originated with a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova. As we were setting up the Foundation, someone referred us to Jenna Tajchman, who was working with a group of families near the village of Stejareni (near Lazova). This was particularly intriguing to us because, by coincidence, Jenna is a Kansan and has a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. Using the principles of the Heifer Project, the families and Jenna were working to form a cooperative to raise dairy cattle. At that time there were eight families involved, in Stejareni and two nearby villages. As they considered the possibilities, they decided that it would be better, in Moldova, to raise rabbits rather than cattle. Rabbit is a regular meat on Moldovan tables, with much less burdensome start-up costs. Constantin Vornicese, a prominent village official, became the project coordinator. This was necessary because Jenna, the PCV, would soon finish her assignment as a PCV in Moldova, and, in any case, one of the major principles of Moldova Mosaic is to fund projects which can be sustainable. Projects need to be headed by local Moldovans to have a chance of being sustainable. As it developed, eleven families ended up participating in Rabbits for Moldova.
Participants in the project received training in feeding, health, vaccinations, breeding, and housing of the rabbits, construction of hutches, breeds of rabbits, and how to sex a rabbit. Victor Efros, President of the Moldovan Rabbit Association, conducted the training. The families built their cages, or renovated old cages. As their financial interest in the project (another principle of Moldova Mosaic), they supplied cages, paid for vaccinations, and part of the cost of young rabbits and food.
It takes several months for a young rabbit to start producing or become large enough to market. During that time, a few families dropped from the project. In Moldova, one of the problems is that many people have a day-to-day horizon, and a couple of families ate their rabbits for food. And one had alcohol problems, also common in Moldova. The others persist, in spite of the fact that at one point about 40 young rabbits were stolen. Eight families remain in the project.
When we visited several of the families in June, 2010, Constantin, the project coordinator, reported that the families who dropped out were all attempting to care for the rabbits themselves. On the other hand, those who remain share the work and back each other up for feeding and care of the animals. They feel a responsibility not only to themselves, but also to each other.