When Chickens Die

When Chickens Die

I love our small business development program.

Simply put - we provide cash grants to aspirational entrepreneurs, and then engage them in an ongoing process of mentoring, monitoring and training, which gives them a really good chance of becoming profit making and sustainable. We can boast of an average monthly income increase of over 300% for our 64 supported businesses, it’s something that we can really be proud of.

Most of time, the result of our well thought through and carefully planned process is that someone sets up or expands their business with obvious success. Normally, the incredibly strong and conscientious people we work with overcome the barriers that their rural location and debilitating poverty bring, to change the lives of their family members. It's hard work for us all, but overwhelming positive. Watching the businesses flourish is rewarding for everyone involved and is celebrated both in the UK and Ghana.

Sadly, but only occasionally, things don’t work out exactly as planned. Today was one of those days. After a long, productive day of work, as I was about to settle down for a cup of tea and chill, I got a Whatsapp from Ghana, which said, “I am very sad. Dery Johnson’s chickens are dead’. I was gutted.

Johnson has been a consultant for ATE from the very beginning in 2012. He is a bright, motivated young man who, like too many in Lawra, has been mostly out of work since he left formal education. Johnson has been a great asset to ATE, working as a Consultant and acting as a host/guide/translator for volunteers. After observing and supporting the small business development program for 3 years, he felt he was ready to start his own business, he thought he had a great idea- and I agreed with him.

There are barely any chickens being reared in Lawra. It is hot, dusty and very very dry for most of the year, this is not ideal for chickens, so is an area of husbandry, which is avoided by most farmers. As a result, all eggs are imported up from the south of Ghana. Johnson saw this as a great opportunity. He researched thoroughly; talking to farmers, reading online, and even finding a vet who can provide vaccinations for the much-feared Newcastle Disease, which can wipe out the entire flock.  He thought he could do better, and make real money by purchasing hardy ‘local’ chickens that can survive in the Savannah conditions of Upper West Ghana.

His application to ATE was brilliant, as expected, and he easily produced a fantastic business plan and calculated his projected profit – which looked extremely promising.  It was an easy decision for us, and after the appropriate mentoring and training, we gave him a cash grant of £240 (1200GhC) to build a safe coup and buy several hundred chicks. He was so excited. He was determined to change his life.

Today, when the ordered chickens finally arrived in Lawra, sent by the best breeder Johnson could find, they were all dead. Every single one of them. Lying in the bottom of several cardboard boxes were piles and piles of stone cold chickens.

His business is over before it began and we’re all devastated. I sent him a message of condolence earlier, and he replied saying ‘Thanks Sarah…..though a heavy challenge, I see it to be a lesson for me. I need to be even more serious to turn this business into a success. I’m into this business with determination, it is my path.’

I don’t know how he can be so resilient, have such faith, and be so positive in the face of such hideously unfair bad luck. That was his chance, it was his opportunity, and it’s over before it even began.


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