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Kenyan girl chicken farmers

Meet the girl entrepreneurs revolutionising Kenyan farming

Economy | By Yohannes Wolday

The fish-for-sex trade is a common problem for girls in the communities of rural Nyanza, near Lake Victoria.

Boys in Kenya are often favoured over girls in both the family and the wider community, which means lower investment in girls' education. For many girls, transactional sex is the only way to make a living.

With 30 per cent of people living and working in these fishing communities estimated to be HIV positive, the dangers for girls are clear.

The lack of education and employment opportunities also pushes many girls to seek financial security from boyfriends or husbands. Thirty-six per cent of girls here are married before their 18th birthday.

Value Girls works with girls and young women in the area to diversify their income, improve financial wellbeing and increase independence and social empowerment - while improving safety and food security at the same time.

The programme has trained more than 2,000 girls to become poultry and vegetable farmers, teaching them financial literacy and business skills, and giving them access to savings schemes and private-public partnerships that help support their enterprises.

The results are impressive, to say the least. Girls who participated in the programme have significantly improved their status in the community and demonstrated that when given the opportunity, they can be excellent entrepreneurs.

To date, girls have traded 45,000 chickens (worth more than 17m Kenyan shillings), with Value Girls becoming one of the biggest buyers of one-day-old chicks in Kenya.

The regional manager of Kenchic, Kenya's biggest chicken brooding company, says: "We like to do business with girls. They are not only fast learners but their success rate is many times higher than other demographics. More than 95 per cent of one-day-old chicks purchased by girls survive to reach a time to lay eggs compared with, on average, 80-85 per cent in the area."

Thanks to the modern farming techniques they have learned, girls in the vegetable business are making monthly sales of about 4.5m Kenyan shillings, which is a significant contribution to the availability of food in their community. This is a great success given that none of the land the girls used was previously under cultivation.

The girls are now considered significant contributors to society, and their value and standing within the community has grown in tandem with their income. "My husband has a new-found respect for me because I can now ease his financial burden," says Otieno, a programme participant.

Kasina, who is now making more in a day than she used to make in a week, sums it up: "Poultry farming has changed my life."

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