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Poultry in Motion

In Doers of Good, Movers and Shakers on December 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Rachael Estess spends a good portion of her day thinking about the business of selling chickens.

Transportation costs. Access to the market. Connecting suppliers and buyers. These are all things that weigh heavily on the mind of this 21 year old from Gulf Breeze, Florida.

But mostly, Rachael thinks about Teresia Mavela and the other women from Kayafungo, Kenya whose hopes and dreams are woven into the fabric of their collective business plan.

Sowing the Seeds of Social Business

The seed for the chicken business idea was sown in August 2010, when Rachael traveled to Kayafungo to mentor a team of 12 interns with ThinkImpact, an organization dedicated to promoting people-powered global development.

Teresia with her product

While working in the village, Rachael met Teresia, a local entrepreneur who had fallen into a bit of a supply rut. “She told me she had tried to start a chicken business to pay for her son’s education,” Rachael recalls. “It was successful for a few months, but then all the birds died and she didn’t understand why. I told her I would try to help her by doing some research.”

Help came in the form of another Kayafungo local named Masha, who had recently retired from the Ministry of Agriculture and happened to know a great deal about raising healthy chickens.

What began with tutorials on proper feeding and growing techniques soon developed into excited conversations about a future business enterprise.

“Masha took out a notebook and started drawing a diagram of how the business would run. We would train women in effective poultry farming processes, he said, but also guarantee them a market by finding a means of transporting chickens and eggs and making connections between suppliers and consumers.”

Teresia, Rachael and Masha lay out the plan for their social business.

And so begins a yearlong effort in Kayafungo, Kenya to achieve what Rachael describes as her own Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal: To employ 200 women and start a single business that makes a noticeable impact in the community.

“By Themselves, They Have So Much”

Launching a social business in Kayafungo, Rachael tells me, means working closely with local leaders and organizations. It means utilizing Masha’s knowledge and Teresia’s network, and it means identifying and leveraging the natural resources available in the community. For Rachael, the success of the social business boils down to this: “showing them that by themselves, they have so much.”

I ask Rachael what she hopes to accomplish by the time she leaves Kayafungo.

“I want [the women] to feel empowered. I want them to be able to send their children to school and have income to buy food. I want them to be able to support themselves and not be reliant on husbands or outsiders. My main goal is to see them independent and self reliant.”

Speaking with Rachael, it is hard not to be moved by this young person’s resolve, or by the resolve of other ThinkImpact volunteers — all under the age of 30 — currently facilitating similar projects around the world. I am curious about this under-30 age requirement, and ask Rachael why it is that ThinkImpact only works with young people:

“I think it is because they come in open minded. When they travel to a new place, they don’t see it as so foreign that they can’t relate. They are also naturally inquisitive. They don’t come in to preach, or show people the right way to do things; instead, they see opportunity. People in their 20s are visionaries. They really see that they can make a change in the world.”

Rachael and the women entrepreneurs of Kayafungo, Kenya

When Rachael leaves Kayafungo, she hopes to leave behind a business that is sustainable, community owned, transparent and stable. ThinkImpact will continue to monitor the business and Rachael will be able to to see how it progresses after she is gone. “It will be neat to see the data and the impact that it has.”

As for the name of the business?

“Mama Kuku. In Swahili, it means ‘Mother Hen.'”

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