Kenyan chicken farmer to meet President Barrack Obama

Kenya: A Kenyan chicken farmer is among young entrepreneurs who will make it on to US President Barack Obama’s guest list at the inaugural Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders summit in August.

James Makini, 26, who runs a social enterprise that seeks to promote youth and women empowerment through poultry farming will be among the 500 winners of the fellowship organised by Mr Obama. The fellowship involves six weeks of formal training at a US university, to be followed by a summit that will be hosted by Obama over three days in the US capital, Washington DC. “After your academic residency…you will travel to Washington DC to participate in a three-day Washington Fellows Summit hosted by President Obama,” US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec’s letter to Makini reads in part. The fellowship is designed to help the next crop of leaders in business from Africa to raise the prospects of a continent whose people have been weighed down by myriad challenges such as poverty. Makini and the other fellows in the programme could also benefit from grants to fund their respective businesses and an opportunity to get placements in either US government agencies or private companies. “I am very excited that the simple business is changing lives and has now been recognised by Obama’s fellowship,” Makini said after receiving news of the fellowship.

“I am looking forward to a chat with the US President.” Makini’s enterprise known as ‘One Hen Campaign’ was identified for its capacity to impact many lives, a feat that is achieved through the donation of a chicken where the recipient is required to return two chicks for onward lending. The social enterprise that was started in 2010 operates in Kisii, Nyamira and Narok, with plans to extend its reach to 10 counties by the end of next year. About 20,000 households have benefited from the micro-loan of an egg-laying indigenous chicken and a cage. The beneficiary is allowed six months to give back two chicks from the brood to the ‘One Hen Campaign’, which are then matured before the next beneficiaries are granted. One only needs Sh200 to become a member before the micro-loan worth about Sh1,100 is extended. It costs Sh700 to build the cage that can hold a dozen chicken, while the hen is valued at a modest Sh400. Makini adds that the programme has enabled some households to pull themselves out of poverty and they now have vibrant poultry businesses.  “We have farmers who have hundreds of chickens from a single hen, which is very fulfilling to us.” The enterprise was started in 2009 as a class assignment for the then final year Bachelor of Commerce students at the University of Nairobi by a group of four classmates. Mac Moseri, the co-founder, is now the finance director of the enterprise that has generated about Sh300 million for its members. The students used savings from their college days as capital for the enterprise whose first target was a handful of women in a village in Kisii. In a bid to maximize returns, ‘One Hen Campaign’ is now manufacturing animal feed in a factory it opened last month, that are bought by the members at a rate below the market price. The organisation has also established a savings and credit entity that enables members to save and borrow, because a vast majority would never qualify for loans from mainstream banks and other financial institutions.

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One Hen Campaign CEO James Makini, middle, delivering a chicken and cage to a beneficiary. He has been selected as a Washington Fellow to meet President Obama in August.  [PHOTO: COURTESY]

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