Mellisa gets her rabbits


When we visited Mellisa a few days ago to inspect the repair work which had been carried out to her house, she somewhat speculatively, asked for a rabbit. So, this being Saturday and a day for adventure, we took on the challenge of procuring two rabbits, preferably alive rather than dead. Mellisa had asked for just one rabbit but for reasons that are hopefully obvious, we thought two would give a better return on the investment.

The first part of the operation was easy: walk down the hill and find a smart young lad with a moto taxi to go to the market. Kimironko market is busy at any time but this morning seemed busier than usual. In the corner, beside the fruit and vegetables and along the outside wall is the livestock. Large wooden crates looking as if they have been recovered from a sunken galleon contained hens, rabbits and in one, a duck, mixed in together.

This is where the morning started to get more challenging. Explaining that we wanted an urukwavu, indeed two urukwavu wasn't difficult. Finding the lowest price was less easy and always takes a little persistence to get down from the 'muzumgo price' usually offered to the whites. After some intensive bartering, seven thousand Francs came down to four thousand and hands were shaken enthusiastically.

Those of a sensitive disposition should look away now. The two specimens which had been sitting patiently and completely unmoved by the bartering process were collected by the ears and taken off to be put in a box. Or so we thought. Something had been lost in translation and as we waited for our goods to be returned, it dawned on us that our two animals might be heading for an end of life experience instead of a comfortable carton. Some frantic phone calls and raised voices seemed to indicate that we had averted disaster. Alas, when two different rabbits were brought back it was apparent that what we thought was just in time was in fact not quite.

It wasn't a box the two animals were put into but a hessian bag. Nestled in the bottom, the two animals seemed very happy on the moto back to the house. Even better, we made it back up the hill on foot without any escape attempts. Back at the house the animals were transferred to a cardboard carton and taken along the road to Mellisa's house where all the children were at home. They seemed very pleased with their new gift.

For those who have been following the Rutonde porridge project, rabbits are the magic kick-start that allows a family to begin generating regular income. For us these animals are relatively cheap but to these people, one animal represents a week's wages. The magic arithmetic is that two weeks' wages in the same box multiply into next week's wages almost as fast as you can say compound interest. Usually a family will keep three or four generations of rabbits once they have built up their stock. The rabbits are eventually sold off and occasionally are eaten. The really good news is that they are self-regenerating and give a family with no means of supporting itself a real boost.

We are looking forward to seeing the progeny of today's adventure when we next visit Mellisa.