We have had the project we entitle “Chicken for Change” on the drawing board for a long while. Chicken business in Kampala can be big business, though it needs space and a hygienic environment. Where there is space in the villages, the market for chickens is much lower and prices too much less. Also, chick-rearing is about nurture, care, consistency, hygiene, as a business with a high attrition is not profitable. In contrast, the egg sales business is easy fast moving consumer goods, with a stock control issue similar to the one we have with the liquid soap business. Stealing chickens happens too, but keeping track of eggs will be tough in our environment, where “Chicken for Change” is attracting so much interest (and maybe a bit of jealousy) from the local kids that come to the Chrysalis Centre.
A few things inspired us to run a chicken business and I thought it would be interesting to share some of these. The first was a visit we made in 2009 to a place called Katende Harambe, a privately-owned social enterprise, which trains people of all ages in how to operate small farming cheaply and effectively. Since the first visit, we have taken probably 50 young people from the Butterfly Project, Caterpillar Project and most recently, the Chrysalis School to the training centre. Francis Ssuuna is our Butterfly Pioneer, who liaises now with Katende Harambe and a couple of weeks ago he took three young people, who work in the Kireka local quarry to this place, to train them up to become part of “Chicken for Change”. When we first visited, we realised that chick-rearing was a good business, if done well and therefore we became determined to learn how to do it well and members of the Butterfly Project were even then sent on their specialist poultry training.
I found too that all of the local kids knew much more than me about poultry. They learn it in school, some of their parents breed chickens and sell eggs and the local community is very ready to accept this business.
But, the question is, should we go with selling eggs, or should we be chick-rearing and that is the question that we are still pondering as we finalise the business plan this week.
To some extent we may also be considering the benefits of social enterprise over traditional enterprise. Should we be running a business tha is teaching young people how to care and nurture, or is there more value in teaching them how to take eggs from chickens and sell them at the highest price possible?
One of our most favourite films on the Butterfly Project has been Chicken Run. In this film, chickens are led by Ginger, an ordinary hen with a vision for a better place. The film discusses issues like the exploitation of chickens in battery farms, but it also shows her vulnerability and also how important she, just one lowly chicken, is to the other chickens she becomes responsible for. So the idea of chicken pies and egg laying comes less readily to our group. Learning how to nurture others, by contrast, is what our project and school is all about, so chick-rearing needs to be part of our vision, if we can make it pay for the quarry kids. Selling 80 hens sounds like an easier prospect than selling 5,200 eggs.
In time we will probably do both, but the question is, which will come first, the chickens or the egg?
Power is still plaguing us here and with the lights out again last night, the Chicken for Change group had their first main discussion meeting, with the hen house developing very quickly at the back of the Chrysalis Centre. Alfred Ochaka, one of the members dropped into the Centre today to say that he had learnt a lot and was looking forward to getting started now, so it seems almost everything is in place now for “Chicken for Change.”