Joyce Adhiambo Omollo knows the power of starting small.
In just one short year, Joyce, a farmer in Homa Bay County, Kenya, has become an entrepreneur and changed the trajectory of her family’s life. And it all began with just a few chickens.
It can be difficult for farmers like Joyce to take steps toward a prosperous future, such as creating a business, providing their children with education or consistently putting food on the table. As many as 53% of people in Homa Bay County live below the international poverty line, and nearly 70% rely on subsistence farming, a hand-to-mouth form of agriculture in which families grow or raise just enough food to survive — and sometimes even achieving that is tough.
Heifer International and Cargill are working to change this through Hatching Hope Kenya, a joint initiative that supports smallholder farmers to raise poultry and eggs as a means of earning income and improving the nutrition of their families and communities.
Joyce informally raised chickens for years before participating in Hatching Hope, but she didn’t know how to feed or shelter them to keep her birds healthy. When she officially joined the project and took her first training, she got the support she needed to help her flock thrive.
“I followed the steps and I noticed the chickens slept comfortably, playing around in the sawdust,” Joyce said, explaining how she learned to add the material to her birds’ space to keep them warm.
Equipped with knowledge on proper shelter, hygiene, feeding and disease prevention practices, Joyce was then given equipment for feeding and watering, a supply of feed and 50 more chickens to expand her enterprise.
When she made her first sales, she was quick to prioritize. “I [paid the] school fees and my children went back to school,” she said.
As a trained poultry farmer and head of household for two children and four grandchildren, Joyce can now sell both eggs and grown birds for income, using the proceeds to cover the family’s basic needs and reinvest in the business; another of her first purchases was 100 day-old chicks to increase her flock size.
This same healthy flock plays another vital role, offering her family an important and consistent source of nutrition in the form of eggs and meat.
“You can see [the benefits] from how I look,” Joyce said. “You can also observe my grandchildren and see how healthy they are."
“Poultry has helped me in many ways,” she continued, “because if it was not for poultry, I would not be where I am currently.”
Joyce knows she lives in an environment where it’s difficult to thrive, but she’s taking steps now to grow her farm and secure a resilient future for her family.
“I had five chickens, and this is what has grown into what I have achieved,” Joyce said. “When you start small you can [benefit] slowly by slowly.”
Now, she’s making structural improvements to her farm, including fencing and flooring, and envisions significantly increasing her flock, with the near-term goal of earning enough to ensure the children can receive a good education. Eventually, she wants to expand even further to raise goats and cows in addition to poultry.
“I would tell people who have not begun this kind of farming that poultry farming has taken me to great places, and I have intentions and hope that I will be a farmer that will be ahead of the game. I have come from down under and have risen,” Joyce said. “I have seen that I have a chance of advancing my life.”