The role which various small livestock play in the nutrition and economy of most families is an important one. In rural areas, many farmers unable to keep larger livestock regard sheep and goats as an investment - ready cash when money is needed for school fees or sickness. Smaller livestock - chickens, rabbits, etc - mean that hospitality is always available for visitors, and provide a supply of eggs and meat for the family, even though this is often only for special occasions.

This issue does not place much emphasis on special breeds and equipment. Instead we look at making the most of what is already available. Village chickens are generally ignored, but here are some practical and tested ideas to improve production. Rabbits are available in most countries, but projects often fail through lack of awareness over breeding, handling and feeding. In just a few pages we cannot hope to cover all the necessary information but there are plenty of recommended books. Often the ideas given for one animal can be adapted for use with another. For example, the guinea pig breeding scheme can easily be adapted to use with rabbits.  

Improving production of small livestock will bring great benefits for the health of the whole family. We hope health workers can use some of these suggestions in their communities. Would a rabbit project, for example, be a useful addition to your community clinic?

Dr Chris Curtis shares new information on the treatment of nets to help in the fight against malaria. Your letters raise other useful points about subjects we have looked at in previous issues.