A Great New Start with Rabbits
At one moment, the utterly bizarre nature of what we were doing hit me. We were outside in the dry heat of the middle of the day, skinning a rabbit, which was hanging from a tree. Emily and I were working with a member from the group to demonstrate humane, effective slaughter of rabbits and butchery.
This was not something that would go down well with my old clients back in the UK, whose rabbits were loved pets, not animals for meat.
AIM has two teams working in the region of Karamoja in northern Uganda. The Karamojong are the poorest people group in Uganda and have a long history of dependency on foreign aid.
The team leaders in Moroto, Lyle and Ingrid, had asked us to help with a livestock project with some lay readers being trained at a local church training centre. These members will be leaving the centre to disperse to different areas of Karamoja, supporting churches and spreading the gospel.
The pastors (and lay readers) in many regions have very little in the way of a stipend and often struggle to make ends meet. The aim of the rabbit project is twofold. One: to help give them an additional income stream or source of protein for them and their families and two: to equip the members with livestock knowledge that they can hopefully pass onto others.
Emily and I had asked two final year students, Nelson and Isaac, to accompany us on this trip to expose them to what veterinary missions work looks like and to inspire them to use their skills to help others.
We used an MAF flight to get up to Moroto and for Isaac it was the first time he had flown. He enjoyed it, thankfully! Lyle and Ingrid had arranged for the rabbit training to take place at the church centre and additionally some members from the local agricultural research station were also invited. Some of these were previous vet students of mine and it was great to see them again.
The training started with the bible, looking at God's plan for creation and our responsibilities to care for the animals. This set a good foundation to build on the rest of the information. We had asked Nelson and Isaac to prepare some of the topics and they did admirably teaching a crowd of people. Topics such as the benefits of rabbit keeping, rabbit feeding and housing were covered. Then came the main point of interest!
We had brought three large rabbits from Kampala and these were to be used for the slaughter and butchery demonstration. The participants were very interested in the whole process and we involved some members in the meat preparation. The meat was then cooked and we were able to eat it as a meal at the end of the day.
The next step in this project puts the onus on the members. Now they have to source materials and build their own houses. We will return, when they are ready, with some further training on health and reproduction. To each participant a pair of rabbits will be given. The members have the responsibility to give back two rabbits to the project in the first year, making the project sustainable to impact more people in the future. The team in Moroto will encourage and monitor the group in this process and refer to us if there are any problems.
The project has worked well in other areas and we are excited to see how things go. We have already heard from one member that they have completed their rabbit house!
During our time in Moroto, I was able to have some really good conversations with Nelson and Isaac about life and faith and they asked if we could meet regularly to share.
For a long time I have been praying for this type of opportunity and now we have met with a small group of the vet students twice now at the vet school. I pray that God will use these times to encourage these young men in their Christian lives.