Rabbit economics

Rabbit economics

An exciting night. Heavy rain on the roof made any effort at sleep futile. The frequent lightning and ear-splitting thunderclaps overhead provided entertainment by way of compensation.

After managing to rescue some sleep from the night it is an early start this morning. I am meeting Steven at the Nyabugogo bus station to take a couple of moto-taxis out to Rutonde. The route to the bus station follows the course of the Nyabugogo river which is swollen and brown with mud after the night's rain. Beneath a bridge a team of men are waist deep, shovelling mud from the fast-running water onto the bank. It looks back-breaking work.

Just as Steven arrives to meet me, Pastor Jean D'Amour phones to say he has arranged a taxi for us. The dirt track to Rutonde is bumpy at the best of times and muddy after the night's rain. A moto is cheap but in the mud, four wheels are more sensible than two. I don't normally put too much thought to my appearance in the Rwandan heat but only have so many clean shirts with me.

At Rutonde we are taken around the hillside to visit some of the homes of children from our porridge project. The children spend six months receiving a daily meal of fortified porridge and after that are given a rabbit to take home. These animals are now in their third and fourth generation.

Here is the thinking behind the rabbits. A young animal can be purchased for around £3. As rabbits do, they multiply, and then some. The gestation period is a month. A female will give birth to a litter of 6-10 pups. After another two months the cycle starts all over again. Rabbit meat is popular and contains valuable protein. Some animals will be sold providing income. Others will find themselves in the family pot and are a nutritious supplement to an otherwise meagre diet.

Any income a family can generate is welcome and rabbits produce a handsome return. With two £3 rabbits multiplying as they do, they represent a far better return than the Bank. A deposit of £3 into one of the local banks barely covers the £2 they charge to withdraw it. And they don't pay interest on deposits.

When the current group of children come to leave the porridge project, Pastor Jean will make an announcement in church that he is looking for rabbits to buy. The word goes around the village and, as if by magic, the furry creatures hop out of the banana trees. Another round of funding is injected into the almost non-existent local economy.