Rabbit Rearing Gives Kiambu Youth Purpose and Income
The members of the Kipayo Youth Bunge in the suburbs of Kiambu Town (roughly ten miles north of Nairobi) have discovered that rabbits are more than just cute. They can be money-makers as well. Like nearly 2.5 million other un- and under-employed Kenyan youth, the young men and women of Kipayo had few productive ways to occupy their time until recently. Although some of the young people were already loosely organized into a youth group, in 2011 they joined USAID’s Yes Youth Can program, successfully registered as a youth bunge (parliament), and saw their fortunes begin to look up.
“Seeing the guys united, well, we girls took an interest,” bunge member Elizabeth Wanjiru recalls. “Then they asked us to join them and we agreed. The unity among the members is the best thing about this group-now we have something that brings us together.”
Yes Youth Can is a nationwide program that is helping young people realize their potential as productive and engaged members of their communities. In the youth-run and youth-led bunges, members democratically elect their own leaders at the village, county, and national level. The bunges provide a structure and a forum for Kenyans aged 18-35 to organize and improve their own lives and those of their neighbors. Village level bunges are building and running small businesses such as fish ponds, poultry raising, small-scale tea growing, milk sales and jewelry making. Many are also involved in community work focusing on environmental conservation, building and reinforcing peace groups, and improving health and sanitation. Bunge leaders are building strong relationships with local government officials as a means of promoting a youth-focused agenda. Bunges across Kenya mobilized 500,000 youth as part of a national government campaign to register Kenyans for national identity cards. Close to one million youth have formed 20,000 village-level bunges that are registered with the government of Kenya as Self-Help Groups.
The Kipayo bunge has found its niche in raising rabbits and selling the meat. Rabbit meat is a growing market in Kenya, and the Kipayo youth are starting to cash in. After receiving technical training and a few quality hybrid rabbits from the Ministry of Agriculture, the members each contributed money to start their business with six different breeds of rabbits. It has grown rapidly, and they now supply rabbit meat to a number of local Tusky’s supermarket branches in Nairobi, as well as Nairobi hotels. The group is also trying to find a market for both the rabbit’s urine which can be used in pesticides, and a market for the hides. With raised confidence and expectations, the group has recently taken on pig farming, which requires more skill and time, but can be more lucrative. They plan to invest their profits into a more hygienic and sophisticated slaughterhouse and also to create a local café.
For member Benson Muroki, the group’s involvement in local agricultural shows and exhibitions has been invaluable. “Through the exhibitions you gain knowledge and confidence in yourself. Getting to be involved in these events has given me knowledge about myself and my abilities I didn't know I had.”
The group takes time to have fun as well – they perform skits and dramas for their neighbors and sell CDs of their performances. Some of the skits delve into the dangers of drugs and alcohol, while others are purely for entertainment and laughs. The performances have proven an effective way to recruit new members to the bunge.