A business of her own

Photo courtesy of Hailey Tucker/One Acre Fund.

Editor’s note: This is a special guest blog post from the One Acre Fund highlighting the important work of the Global Food Security Act.

By Whitney McFerron

Open the door to the brick building next to Jesca Namusoke’s house, and you’ll see about 100 white chickens scurrying around, feeding on bowls of grain and pecking at the hard dirt floor. This room, lit by a small window and a solar lamp, used to be the place where Jesca’s oldest children slept. Now they’re away at university, so Jesca converted the space into a makeshift barn.

Chickens are a lucrative business for Jesca, a 45-year-old smallholder farmer from Buramya village in eastern Uganda. Jesca buys baby chicks from a neighboring supplier shortly after they’re hatched and spends the next few months raising them until they’re large enough to be sold. Each young bird costs her the equivalent of about 60 U.S. cents. Once they’re fully grown, she can sell them for up to 10 times that amount.

Jesca only started her poultry operation two years ago, but it’s the realization of a long-held dream. She’s is a natural businesswoman, but until recently, she never had enough start-up money to buy a flock of chickens, let alone enough grain to feed them throughout the year. Jesca’s family is large — five children of her own, plus five nieces and nephews she adopted after her sister died. For many years, the family struggled to feed themselves from the income of Jesca’s 1.5-acre farm and her husband’s job as a shopkeeper in town.

Things started to change in 2015, when Jesca joined One Acre Fund. For the first time, she received high-quality seeds and fertilizer for her farm, and she learned how to space her planting for higher crop yields. As a result, that year Jesca harvested four times more maize than ever before. Finally, the family had enough income to feed themselves, pay school fees, and invest in the poultry business Jesca had been dreaming about.

“I wanted to put my harvest money somewhere where it could make more profits,” Jesca says. “I always had a big vision for this business and my farm.”

One Acre Fund’s operations in Uganda are supported by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s main global food security program. However, Feed the Future’s own future is uncertain — the program is authorized by legislation that will expire later this year unless Congress acts to reauthorize it. Fortunately, the Senate has introduced legislation to do that (the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2017) and the House recently added its own bill (the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018).

For many farmers like Jesca, support from the U.S. government and other outside sources makes the difference in whether they are able to free themselves from poverty and hunger. That is why it’s so important for constituents to urge their representative in the House to cosponsor the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018 and to urge both their senators to cosponsor the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2017. Jesca, who never had a chance to finish secondary school, now has the means to put her children on a firmer path to economic success through higher education. Her business has also helped her unlock her own potential. Jesca sells chickens to many of her neighbors as well as to some local hotel and restaurant proprietors. She likes the financial independence it gives her, and the family is no longer stressed about making ends meet.

Jesca says her older kids don’t mind that she converted their bedroom into a barn, because the chickens are paying their university tuition. Two of her children are studying accounting and a third is majoring in psychology. Her younger children also recently started attending private school. It’s more expensive, but worth the investment for a better education, she says.

Whitney McFerron is a writer and editor at One Acre Fund.

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