Students using rabbits to promote education

What you need to know:

  • Haunted by the situation of non-school going children back home, Narinda Sheilah and Myres Ndyabawe, started a social project Rabbit for Education in which they train young people to rear rabbits and sell their products for school fees.

In Kamwenge District farming communities have fallen on hard times, leaving many families unable to send their children to school. Sheilah Narinda and Myres Ndyabawe, two Makerere University students from the district, have made it their mission to get children back in school with Rabbits for Education, an innovative project that will improve livelihoods in the community.
“Growing up in Kamwenge especially in Kabuga and the neighbouring villages, dictates that you must learn how to dig if you are to survive. The only source of income is maize — which in recent years has been disappointing,” says Ndyabawe.
The pair met as Mastercard Foundation Scholars at Makerere University, where Narinda, 24, is a Bachelor’s of Commerce student whereas Ndyabawe, 23, is pursuing a Degree in Journalism and Communication. Mastercard Foundation scholars are selected for their academic talent, social consciousness, and leadership qualities.
After hearing about the Resolution Social Venture Challenge, a competition which rewards students’ compelling social ventures worldwide, Narinda and Ndyabawe started discussing pressing social concerns in their communities, giving thought to how they might play a positive role in improving the lives of others. After discussions with close friends, the pair founded Rabbits for Education.
“Among these was the idea of rearing rabbits on a large scale given to us by Bashir Magezi, the chief executive officer of the Girls in School Initiative. He had seen a similar project in Kenya, though it was profit-oriented. We discussed how we could turn that big project into a smaller social venture. And in May 2018, we applied for the Resolution Social Venture Challenge,” said Narinda.

Getting started
The same year, Rabbit for Education won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge, a competition that rewards compelling leadership and promising social ventures led by youth. These young leaders earned a fellowship that includes seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of young global change-makers to pursue impactful projects in their communities.
The Resolution Social Venture Challenge provides a pathway to action for socially responsible young leaders who want to create change that matters in their communities. “Rabbits multiply as many as eight times a year on average and each time can produce around eight kittens per litter, meaning there is income throughout the year. There is also a high demand for rabbit meat and other products such as the skin. Rabbits are easy to rear and very economical in terms of feeding, as they feed on grass,” said Ndyabawe.
The high demand for rabbit meat and their high multiplication rate means that children in Kamwenge District, where the project is based, will have the necessary school fees to attend class.
The project will start with 60 beneficiaries who will each receive a male and female rabbit, as well as training on how to raise them. They will be supplied with weather-friendly cages in which the rabbits will be housed.
The first cohort of beneficiaries of the Rabbits for Education project will receive the New Zealand variety and will sell their rabbits to Lusaze modern agriculture solution, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the project to supply the seed rabbits and purchase the mature rabbits reared by the beneficiaries. A mature rabbit will be sold at between Shs36,000 and Shs46,000.
The first beneficiaries will be required to give two rabbits; one male, and one female from their stock to the second cohort of beneficiaries, and the second will give two rabbits to the third, thus creating opportunity for more and more beneficiaries to come on board.
More opportunity means that the education of even more children can be subsidised.
“Rabbit farmers and their families will benefit from each part of the rabbit. For instance, rabbit waste is used as organic fertiliser in gardens to boost farming yields. Rabbit urine is good liquid manure for crops and is in high demand. A 20-litre jerrycan [of rabbit urine] goes for Shs36,000,” says Narinda.

Inspiring the youth
As Rabbits for Education embarks on identifying the first batch of beneficiaries, Narinda and Ndyabawe are optimistic that through the Mastercard Foundation and the Resolution Social Venture Challenge, their dream will be a great example to other African youth.
“Being a winner of the challenge gives me much pride in being part of a network of youth who are committed to transforming their communities. We are grateful for the platform to showcase our abilities and give back to our communities,” says Narinda.
“Winning the challenge, like the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme, has enabled me fulfill my dream of supporting someone in need of education and start a journey towards achieving their dreams,” says Ndyabawe.