“I have my first egg!” Rosy Goodluck shows off a creamy-white egg as her 34 chickens peck at the ground around her feet. Her friends gather round to look, congratulating her with wide smiles and laughter. But these are not ordinary farmers: they are thirteen-year old primary school students.
Rosy lives in the village of Kishisha, a scattered hamlet of farmsteads at the western foot of Kilimanjaro, about 45 kilometres northwest of the town of Moshi. The fields are a patchwork of vivid greens. Dark coffee bushes grow in the shade of lighter-green banana plants. There are different types of grasses, bean plants and maize stalks, all of which stand out boldly against the rust-red soil.
The girls are part of a group who qualified for a project run by Shukuru, an NGO working locally. Education in Tanzania is only free at the primary level, up to the age of fourteen. Many girls miss out on secondary school because their parents cannot afford the fees.
However, the profits earned by the girls in one year will be matched by Shukuru in order to pay their school fees. The girls have an extra incentive – any money left over after paying the school fees will be available to the girls to fund extra-curricular activities whilst at school.
Rosy says, “I want to be a doctor. Without these chickens, my grandmother would have to sell her cows to pay for my schooling, which would leave her with nothing for herself.”
JoAnne Longanilla is the founder of Shukuru. She says: “We aim to empower adolescent girls to be able to pay for their secondary education themselves. We do it through this sustainable loan and entrepreneurial project.” Shukuru plans to empower many more girls in the coming years.
All the girls involved in the scheme qualify because of their family circumstances. Many are orphans, or have only one parent. Rosy herself was abandoned by both parents, leaving her grandmother to raise her. Her grandmother, Bibi Rose, says, “I help her look after the chickens because she needs to go to school during the week. It’s a co-operative effort, so she can study.”
Upendo Daudi is one of the beneficiaries of the project. Her father died some years back. She says: “Many girls cannot get to secondary school. I applied for the scheme after it was announced at my school. I was accepted. I used to see a chicken only as a chicken. Now I see it as money.”
Haggai Nkini is Shukuru’s field coordinator. He gathers the chickens from the girls when they weigh more than one and a half kilograms. They are sold in the market in Moshi for about 8000 Tanzanian shillings ($5 US) each. The money is then kept in trust for the girls’ education. At the end of the one-year program, after deductions for the initial loan of chicks, feed and vaccinations, there is enough money left over for the girls to pay for four years of secondary school.
Mr. Nkini also trains the girls in veterinary practices. He says, “If they can keep the birds healthy, they will use few medicines and ultimately earn a better profit.” This training helps the young farmers learn how to plan for the future.
Dorine Peris is a confident young lady who was adopted when very young. She also wants to be a doctor. Dorine says, “I would have found a way to pay for my fees with beans and maize if I’d had to. Now my chickens mean I will be able to go to school and start a better life.”
Rosy kept some of her flock of 100 chickens to provide her with eggs. Now that they have started laying, she plans to sell the eggs at a local market. She says, “With these chickens, I could earn 9,000 shillings ($5.60 US) a day. I want to be self-reliant.”