The World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both identified malnutrition as a major factor in preventing the Ugandan people from moving out of poverty and into more substantial development. According to the WFP:
One in three Ugandan children suffer from stunting, a lifelong condition that results when children miss out on critical nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals while in the womb or in the first five years of life. People affected by stunting are more likely to suffer from illnesses, drop out of school, be less productive at work and live shorter lives.
When one visits Uganda’s rural areas, you see hills rolling in lush greens – cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, and other grains and vegetables growing – but this oasis of vegetation does not prevent malnutrition by itself. It is the right combination of foods and healthy activities, including intensive breast feeding, which can prevent malnutrition from occurring in a child’s early years.
Uganda “spends [millions] per year treating cases of diarrhoea, anaemia and respiratory infections linked to malnutrition” (WFP), while also losing revenue as the citizens underperform in school and at work due to stunted childhoods. Western Uganda is suffering from malnutrition even more so. There, 44% of children are affected by malnutrition. Proper prevention of the causes of malnutrition would have immense positive impact on Ugandan families and the country as a whole. So, KIHEFO is tackling the problem.
So, what can a rabbit do (to solve malnutrition)?
Actually, quite a lot!
Rabbits feed families. Farmers gather inedible material like weeds, grass, and vegetable scraps to use as food for rabbits, which are a great source of protein and nutrients.
Rabbits breed quickly. If properly cared for, a female can produce a litter of half a dozen rabbits each month.
Rabbits produce fertilizer. Rabbit droppings can be collected easily and used as an organic fertilizer to improve soil quality and overall yields.
Rabbits generate revenue. In the market, a rabbit can be sold for 15,000 Ugandan Shillings (equivalent of $6 US Dollars) which helps generate small income for poor households.
For these reasons, rabbits can be the vehicle to solving the problem of malnutrition in Uganda (and other countries). Rabbits can improve people’s diets and current farmland, but also provide the income to source other necessary components of a proper diet.
KIHEFO has researched using rabbits as a solution to malnutrition over the past few years, which led to the constructed of the Kigezi Rabbit Breeding, Training, and Processing Center outside of Kabale.
Inside you will find an assortment of cages. They are filled with five breeds of rabbits, to ensure diversity in future generations. Males and females are further separated, to allow for proper growth.
Cages are simply designed, made of wood and wire mesh. A door is needed to feed the rabbits and then remove the bunnies once they have matured.
Managed by Alphonse, a staff member of KIHEFO, the Center acts as not only the distribution hub for future clients. It also provides education through example. Outside is a small plot of kale that provides the food for the rabbits of the Center. Having everything locally available means that the Center is self-sustaining and requires low resources to operate.
In addition to setting up the infrastructure and initial supply of rabbits, KIHEFO is also conducting nutrition surveys in the outlying rural communities, identifying the most vulnerable populations – those dealing with disease and large numbers of children, many orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The villages of Rubira and Kicumbi have already seen the advantages of this program, with both families and communities starting their own rabbit breeding facilities. These are smaller in scale, but have the ability to grow.
If you want to support KIHEFO’s Rabbit Breeding Center and those families most in need, please let me know.