KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
Julius is a young man who lives on the outskirts of Kabale town-centre in the Kabale District of southwestern Uganda. Like many young people in Uganda today, Julius is facing many challenges. One of the greatest challenges is finding a job (the majority of youth in Uganda are unemployed), earning an income (many people in Kabale town-centre live on only $2 to $3 a day), and contributing to his household so his family has enough food (and enough quality, nutritious food) to eat.
Foods that are available to Julius, including plantain, Irish potatoes, corn and sweet potato, are either grown and saved by the household for consumption, or purchased in the market. Most households can rarely afford to purchase meat, eggs, milk and protein sources – which is why a typical diet of starch carbohydrates is contributing to protein deficiency and malnutrition in the Kigezi region, especially amongst children under five years. Aside from food costs, Julius struggles to generate enough income to cover other essential household expenses, including soap, cooking oil, charcoal, public transport, medicines and tuition for school.
In October 2012, Julius began experimenting with raising rabbits in his backyard – determined to improve his socioeconomic situation. He had taken the advice of his neighbor, Alphonse Tuissimwe, a graduate from a Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development program in Kenya – who also works closely with KIHEFO as a technical advisor in agro-innovation programs. Alphonse taught Julius about the basics of raising rabbits, and how to construct wooden cages, raised off the ground, to prevent risks from disease and predators. Motivated by Alphonse’s encouragement and mentorship, Julius started small, and began breeding his two does (female rabbits).
In January 2013, only three months later, KIHEFO visited Julius at his small home and was inspired to see that his rabbit population had increased exponentially from two to fifty-two rabbits! Julius reported many positive results from the rabbit experiment. His family ate one or two rabbits per week, which eliminated their need to spend exhausted resources on beef or chicken in the market. Additionally, Julius’s neighbors would occasionally buy rabbits for meat consumption, which helped put money directly in his pocket. Some neighbors, inspired by Julius’s rabbit initiative, purchased does directly from Julius to set up their own back-yard operation.
In only a short time, Julius succeeded in saving money from his profits to expand his site from one cage to four cages. The greatest challenge, he explained during KIHEFO’s visit, was affording the materials for cage construction. He aspired to sell his rabbits in larger numbers for increased income (to expand his operation) – but explained that without a larger market to purchase and process rabbit meat, it would be difficult to move forward.
KIHEFO’s Vision for Rabbit Production in Kigezi
Over the years of working closely with sub-urban and rural populations in the Kigezi region, KIHEFO had identified a growing trend amongst poor households to raise rabbits in their own back-yards – for meat consumption and income generation.
KIHEFO is currently working with multiple local partners to ‘move forward’ with rabbit production in Kigezi, Uganda. KIHEFO aspires to develop a Rabbit Breeding, Training and Processing Centre in Kabale to help build a foundation for a regional rabbit market. The goal, as always, is to integrate poor households (dealing with disease and caring for large numbers of children, many orphaned by HIV/AIDS) into the project, and create access for families to gain skills, access capital, and walk themselves out of poverty.
Please stay tuned to this exciting project – we will post more stories soon to share more about this innovative solution to food insecurity and poverty in Kigezi, Uganda.
Until then, visit our website to learn more about our Agroinnovation and Micro-Credit Loan projects – click here.