The rabbit darts in its hutch from one corner to another as the young girl attempts to catch it. Laeititia Mukungu laughs heartily as the animal dodges.
After several attempts, she corners it, holds it by the ears and takes it gently out of the hutch.
She will cuddle the big-eyed animal as she cleans it. The affection for the animal and over 200 others in several hutches at her farm is unmistakable.
“These are my babies. I love them dearly,” says Laeititia as she strokes the rabbit gently before sending it back into the pen.
The 19-year-old is a successful rabbit farmer, who started keeping animals when she was 12 years old.
Fate pushed her into rabbit-farming. After sitting KCPE exams in 2009 at Nairobi Primary School, Laeititia scored 432 out of 500 marks, getting admission to Precious Blood Girls, Riruta.
However, she was forced to discontinue her studies since her mother could not afford school fees. She later moved to her grandparent’s home in Bukura, Kakamega County, where she got a job as an untrained primary school teacher at Bukura Educational Complex.
The desire to raise her secondary school fees and improve the welfare of her pupils, many who came to school without taking breakfast because of poverty, made her think of ways to make some income.
With land being the only resource she had from her grandparents, Laeititia visited Bukura Agricultural Training Institute for advice on what agricultural project she could engage in.
An official at the institute advised her to venture into rabbit-farming. She shared the idea with her headteacher, who offered her Sh40,000 capital.
Laeititia bought 10 does and five bucks from farmers in the area with part of the money. She also built a hutch for the animals. “In about nine months, I had raised Sh70,000,” she recounts.
The teenager used the money to pay her school fees at Precious Blood Girls, where she joined in second term in 2010. She left her business to her mother Mukungu Zambezi.
“I would always look forward to returning home over the school holiday to help her,” she says. She feeds the rabbits on pellets, hay, water and fresh vegetables. This costs her about Sh10,000 a month.
“I had 450 rabbits but we sold quite a number recently. We now have about 200,” she says.
Rearing rabbits is a viable undertaking especially for beginners.
They take six months to mature and their gestation period is 30 days. On average, a rabbit can give birth up to 30 babies a year. Each and every part of a rabbit, she told Seeds of Gold, has economic value.
“The fur is used to make clothes, the skin shoes, their droppings are manure and urine is an organic pesticide. You cannot go wrong with rabbits,” she says.
A mature rabbit retails at between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000, while a kilo of its meat fetches Sh400.
She only keeps two breeds namely New Zealand White and Californian White, but she is working on introducing Angora.
Laeititia’s passion for rabbits earned her a scholarship to study leadership and entrepreneurship at the African Leadership Academy (ALA), where she is currently. “I quit Precious Blood in 2012 for ALA. It is a unique institution with so many opportunities. I have learnt a lot from ALA,” says the teenager, who is using the knowledge she acquires at ALA to improve her passion that operates under the trade name Africa Rabbit Centre.
Laeititia won the scholarship after participating in ALA’s Anzisha Prize Award, which recognises young people who have developed and implemented innovative ideas that help better the community.
“I got the information about the award from a friend. I later quit Precious Blood in Form Three. I am now based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am currently on study leave,” says the third year student.
She thanks her mother for helping her nurture her business as she undertakes her studies.
“I have reached where I am because of rabbit farming. If I had not remained steadfast and ventured into farming, I would not be where I am today. I hope to have my slaughterhouse at the farm so that I can avoid middlemen,” says Laeititia, who will soon be joining a US university.