In rural Niger, Hadija Hadiza Lawali is her village’s chicken expert. From feed to disease prevention, everyone comes to her. And knowing chickens has been a good business.
In rural areas across the world, poultry farming can play several roles: increasing nutrition as meat and eggs are eaten at home, increasing income from egg sales and ultimately bringing social prestige for business owners and trust in vaccinators. Family poultry farming has the potential to empower women, especially when they are in charge of poultry vaccination, able to give livestock farming advice and playing a leadership role in their community.
The majority of meat and eggs production in Niger comes from family farms run by women and children. In villages, chickens are allowed to scavenge during the day and are housed at night. They are provided with little or no supplementary feed and suffer from nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies make the chickens susceptible to a poultry plague known as Newcastle disease, affecting chicken health and ultimately egg productivity. Recurring disease leads to a significant loss in family poultry, directly affecting the protein intake of families and causing loss of incomes for rural women.
To promote chicken health and provide income activities for rural women while increasing protein options, NCBA CLUSA’s USAID | REGIS-ER project has introduced vaccination programs with a focus on training women, who are becoming vaccinators for the prevention and handling of poultry diseases and extension training agents for poultry farming. Through the program, the women are gaining autonomy, earning money and strengthening their positions within the village. Many have said they have more autonomy within their families, especially deciding how to spend the money, which ultimately puts more resources towards children’s nutrition and education.
Hadjia is one of the poultry vaccinators trained and supported by the project in Kaba Dan Koraou village (Zinder region, Niger). Valued for her entrepreneurial spirit, commitment and innate sense of marketing, the community nominated her to go to the training to learn skills to help the village and her family.
“Before the training, I was not familiar with vaccination practices,” said Hadija, who was elected by her village general assembly to take the training. “I was grateful that the group recognized my patience, determination and motivation to give me the opportunity to become a poultry vaccinator.”
With the other women chosen in Bandé commune, Hadija was trained in September 2015. Afterwards, she received a vaccination kit promising to widely sell veterinary products and quality feed.
Hadjia also innovated and added her own strategies to her training to increase her sales. She produced poultry food with local ingredients and distributed them for free to several poultry farmers in her village to test. She also started to promote veterinary products around the bus station and gave out free doses she had bought with her own money.
“After testing these products, farmers came back to me to buy them. This is the way I gained clients,” she said. Her clients spread the word and she gained more. But what really showcased her quality services was that the same clients returned again and again.
“Having a woman playing the role of vaccinator and advisor has been of great benefit for our community,” said Bandé communal council member Ammani Oumarou. Hadija was the first women vaccinator in the village and her help allowed the chicken population to bounce back, letting farmers handle expenses. “It is very positive for our village and also for neighboring villages. We have improved relationships with them thanks to the decrease of diseases,” Ammani said.
Supporting her entrepreneurism is Hadija’s husband. Each year during the dry season (between February and May), he goes to the regional capital to work as a mason. While he is gone, Hadija runs the house and expenses and when he returns he helps her keep records and sales, marketing products and taking care of the animals she bought with the profits from her vaccination business.
Every month, Hadjia makes up to 15 000 FCFA, or about $25 USD, from vaccinations. She re-invested part of her income and bought a sheep, three hens and contributed to the purchase of a mill. Thanks to these new assets, she was able to access 300 000 FCFA credit from the KOKARI institution and has already gotten 20 chicks from the hens.
Hadija also linked up with a moringa producer from Gabi, a neighboring village, who provides her with fresh moringa to process and sell. Establishing assets and diversifying her income has given her the confidence to tackle problems head on and take up new challenges. And she’s already planning the future: “I strive to create a counter for veterinary products and livestock food,” she said.
In Zinder region where Kaba village is located, USAID | REGIS-ER trained and coached 20 female poultry vaccinators in technical skills and other resilient income training including assets building, access to credit, small-scale agro-processing and child nutrition. As Hadija has shown, the training for one job has given her the ability to diversify, develop new skills and improve her family’s food and nutrition.