Hope can be loosely defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.” There is no known, accurate way to measure hope. But if there was a way, Jean Damascene Ndengeyinka, a fledgling poultry farm owner living in Bugesera District, would be found to be filled to the brim with it.
This is because he has placed an order to acquire, in January next year, a new set of 580 chickens to boost the already flourishing stock of 330 chickens he received as part of a start-up package to start practicing poultry farming.
Poultry farming is the raising of domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food.
The cost of this expansion is valued at well over half a million Rwandan francs (Rwf609,000 to be exact), not taking into account the cost of constructing a second hangar-like structure – which is also in progress – to accommodate the chickens, also costing hundreds of thousands of Rwandan francs.
But Damascene, with a boyish grin on his face, says he can handle it. All on his own without external financial support. Thus the reason for the hope-filled way in which he looks at me as he narrates his story…
Little over a year ago, Damascene, aged 28, was a trader at the local market, selling fruits and vegetables. He tells me that after a whole day of selling, often in the scorching hot Bugesera heat, if he made a profit of Rwf500, that was a good day. A high school dropout, with no way to continue his schooling due to inability of his parents to pay school fees, he turned to small-scale business as his only way out of a life of poverty.
Barely making ends meet while selling his fruits and vegetables at the local market, he was selected as a beneficiary of the One UN “Youth and Women Employment Programme”.
Then, his life changed.
He now has a net income of roughly Rwf100,000 per month after expenses, a measly sum to some, but to him, a dream come true.
“I can now afford to live comfortably and re-invest into my business. Self-sufficiency was always my main target in life, not big riches. I wholeheartedly thank the One UN family for helping me achieve this”, Damascene says in a measured tone, yet excitement gleams in his eye.
Damascene is just one of 25 young entrepreneurs (girls and boys) that were unemployed or underemployed in the age cohort of 18-35 years who were supported to establish poultry farm units for egg production. This is currently their full-time employment. Each individual received 330 layer hens.
200 vulnerable households mainly women-headed and grouped into 8 small groups were also supported to install poultry farm units for egg production as well as to improve their families’ nutrition by adding eggs to their diet. For the women, it is usually their part-time occupation, as they have to attend to other household chores. Each group of 25 women received 425 layer hens.
The project contribution is in the form of start-up production input kits and intensive training with technical assistance backstopping missions from FAO to train the young farmers in multifaceted technical aspects including mentoring on entrepreneurship, business, nutrition and “associativism” among other topics.
It's not all sunshine and roses. Challenges abound too. Over the last few months, 10 of the chickens he received died, due to a variety of reasons, paramount of which is the ever-lurking threat of disease, which can ravage a project such as his.
And while Damascene has secured a lucrative contract supplying the nearby Rwanda Military Academy in Gako, among other supply stops, transporting his fragile goods can be costly and result in lost supplies as eggs and chickens are broken or stolen.
However, this hasn’t impeded Damascene from dreaming even bigger.
One among the group visiting Damascene to see how he is faring jokingly dares him to have 10,000 chickens the next time we visit him.
“Hopefully, I’ll have 100,000 chickens”, he replies.
Blind optimism? Not with the kind of enthusiasm and determination that has seen him this far. Not with the support system buoying him, thanks to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the wider One UN Family.
Only Time will tell.
Written by Steve Nzaramba,
Communications Associate, United Nations Resident Coordinator's Office, Rwanda
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