Building resilience through investing in women: The story of Aletta

Globally, farming and poultry projects have improved the productivity of resource-poor communities and enhanced the income and nutritional security of households.
The urgent need for transformative food systems that ensure the empowerment of poor and vulnerable population groups like rural women, resulted in the implementation of the USAID-BHA funded Integrated Livelihoods project in Zimbabwe’s Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts.

The 15-month project integrated the food security (nutrition gardens, poultry and small grains production), access to diversified income (cash for work and VSL), sanitation and water services components to better cushion the communities from multifaceted shocks.

Aletta Matange, a 47-year-old mother of three is one of the beneficiaries who are reaping the rewards of the poultry and small grain production component of the project that was implemented by Nutrition Action Zimbabwe (NAZ) in partnership with Action Contre LaFaim (ACF) in Mwenezi district last year.

“I never imagined that poultry can drastically transform one’s livelihood for the better, but my perspective changed after I watched my neighbor who benefitted from the previous USAID funded poultry project. After receiving the 15 chicks, her life changed, her chickens multiplied, and her family’s living standards and livelihood transformed before my eyes,” she said.

“Looking at all the benefits, I committed myself to trying poultry as well. Even though the urge became more pronounced in me, I didn’t have money to buy the chicks and start poultry, let alone the feed, but NAZ came at an opportune time and my dream came to fruition.”

Under the project, the mother of three received fowl run building materials, 15 chicks (day old), chicken feed, 4kgs cowpeas and sorghum seed input. She harvested 16 bags (320kgs) of cowpeas from the seed input she received and enjoyed dried cowpea leaves as relish with her family.

Aletta cited that the intervention has enhanced her household’s nutritional status amid the current EL-Nino induced drought that is ravaging the country. She added that after receiving building material she constructed her fowl run and kick started her poultry project.

“I sold six bags of surplus cowpeas that I had harvested and bought additional 10 boshveld chicks from MaiHove my neighbor who benefited from the first BHA poultry project. My family is now enjoying eggs and meat and we sell surplus eggs from time to time to cover other household expenses,” Aletta said.

“Even though my poultry production project is not yet bringing in large sums of money, at least it suffices to cover our household nutritional needs and we don’t fall short of money to address our immediate needs as we sell eggs and roosters seasonally.”

They say knowledge is power, once gained it cannot be stolen. NAZ alongside another implementing partner Africa Ahead (AA) carried out trainings to capacitate the farmers and ensure the sustainability of the integrated project. The trainings comprised of health clubs, small grain and poultry production, livestock management, feed formulation, climate smart agriculture and good agricultural practices.

Three months after the project ended, the intervention’s impact on Aletta’s life is still alive.

“I don’t take for granted the knowledge I gained on climate smart agriculture. This farming season I planted small grains again from the seeds I kept from last season when the donor gave us the seed inputs. I preserved the seed variety because it is drought resistant and matures faster,” she said.

“I am currently harvesting the cowpeas and I formulate my own poultry feed from small grains. Despite the drought, I remain optimistic that one day my poultry project will mature to a flourishing poultry business where I sell eggs and meat at a larger scale and even be a service provider for day old boshveld chicks in my community.”

According to FAO, poultry production can be that transformative change in low- and middle-income countries. It plays an important role in the food and nutritional security of rural people living in fragile ecosystems.

For the likes of Aletta, poultry production is a tool for poverty alleviation and women empowerment besides ensuring food and nutritional security for rural poor.

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