When Laetitia Victoria Mukungu finished as the third best student at Nairobi Primary School with 431 marks (out of 500), she had high hopes of joining one of the best performing schools in Kenya, Precious Blood Riruta.
But her mum had just lost her job so fears of not continuing her education were real. While waiting and hoping to raise the required school fees to join form one, Laetitia (pronounced Latishia) volunteered as a holiday teacher at Bukura Education Complex in Bukura, Kakamega County. This teaching period is probably the defining moment of the young girl with a big heart for the community.
“Teaching at the school exposed me to the conditions in the community. The poverty levels were really high. Most pupils are from single-mother families, and most struggle to pay school fees and cater for the basic necessities,” explains Laetitia.
The dire poverty in Bukura community stirred Laetitia to come up with an income generating initiative that would involve the parents and guardians of the students so that they could pay school fees.
“After spending time researching on what I could start, I identified rabbit farming as a viable project. I came to learn that rabbit meat is high in demand in the region but supply does not match the demand,” says Laetitia.
She pitched the idea to the headmaster and explained how the project could raise funds and how it would be managed. The headmaster bought the idea and loaned Laetitia Sh50,000 to start the business. She founded the Africa Rabbit Centre to manage the community project.
“We identified 15 really needy kids, invited their mothers and guardians and explained what we wanted to achieve with the rabbit farm. The women agreed to work in the farm through the Women Rabbit Association that I helped them establish,” says Laetitia.
With the Sh50,000 start-up capital, Laetitia bought 15 New Zealand breed rabbits – which are very good for meat – and built a hatch in the school compound in 2011.
“The advantage with rearing rabbits is that the gestation period is 30 days, with each rabbit producing six kits. So you can get up to 30 young rabbits per rabbit in one year,” explains the 17-year-old. “We started selling rabbit meat after a few months at Sh3,000 per rabbit. The demand was very high; we couldn’t meet all the needs of our suppliers even though we sold 200 rabbits in the first year.”
Having involved the community at an early stage, Laetitia ensured ownership of the initiative and continued support even when she joined Precious Blood School in 2010.
She would spend hours on the internet researching about rabbit meat and farming. She also got help from the Bukura Institute of Agriculture. Laetitia soon discovered more ways of expanding the utility of the rabbit farm.
“The project provided a steady income for the 15 women who could now afford school fees. We also started buying uniform and stationery for other students.”