To commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8, Heifer International South Africa turns focus towards the social achievements of rural women residing in the disadvantaged Mahbeleni village, situated in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The Sukuma Poultry project was first started in 2006 by a group of women that had come together to improve on living conditions. In 2011, Heifer has helped lift the Sukuma Poultry Project towards positive transformation and empower scores of women in the village. The project equipped women with ‘tools of transformation’ by providing them with adequate education and training on maintaining sustainable crop and chicken farming practices. These methods adhered to the Cornerstones of Heifer’s mission to achieve holistic community development. Their indigenous knowledge teamed with Heifers skills and resources helped transform daily family farms into family businesses.
Women where taught sustainable horticultural practices. These practices included the increasing of soil fertility by promoting the use of chicken manure. Organic farming practices yielded more nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Sunshine Seedlings had gifted the project members with gifts of seedlings. The vegetables consumed will go a long way in meeting the 400g World Health Organization (WHO) and Food Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake to prevent chronic diseases and malnutrition. Project members were gifted with indigenous Boschveld chickens, and additionally training was provided to build chicken coops and management of chickens. With these gifts, women and youth where given a chance to become small hold farmers by yielding income through sale of crops, poultry and eggs. The project hailed successful by adopting Heifer’s ‘value-based’ holistic community development model. At the heart of Heifers Cornerstones lies ‘Passing on the Gift’ (POG). This allowed for original project members to donate gifts of these indigenous chickens to other families in need to share in success. This cycle of positive change has helped empower 409 POG female project families and 170 female project members.
In an interview conducted by Nkanyiso Nzimande ( Heifer International Sakuma Project Assistant), on the 09 May 2014, a lady from the village, Emeldah Mqadi, spoke on the positive change Heifer has made in her life. Mrs Mqadi, mother of two, was gifted with 31 chickens, vegetables and fruit seedlings. These gifts have helped her with daily income through sales of chickens, eggs and vegetables. She is now able to provide her family with good food and nutrition. They now get vegetables, poultry meat and eggs on a regular basis. Their collective garden of hope consists of mainly spinach and potatoes. The organic farming practices adopted from Heifer’s training programs have added to their good state of health. The garden has improved her family life. Family members, when available, all assist with farming activities and Mr Mqadi supports her gardening efforts. Mrs Mqadi’s garden is a ray of hope that improves family time together and overall harmony.
“ We are very grateful we owe most of what we have and the teaching to Sukuma and Heifer. Heifer has made a huge difference because even in the collective gardens it was through the teachings and efforts of Heifer staff that I joined and now I know how to tend to plants and animals and even deter hawks from catching our chickens,” Emeldah Funani Mqadi.
The Sukuma Poultry Project has successfully strengthened and empowered the women and youth of the Mabheleni village. May their collective Gardens of Prosperity flourish forever.