When I say the word “chicken,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe you envision an actual rooster or hen. Or perhaps it’s a plate of chicken nuggets or Kentucky Fried. You might think of a childhood bully’s taunt, daring you to try something stupid or dangerous, and then calling you a chicken when you don’t oblige.

Right now, the word “chicken” takes me back to Uganda, where I spent two weeks recently, visiting commercial and family poultry farms, a hatchery, a chicken feed supplier, and other chicken-related people and places, all with the goal of setting up what we’re calling a “Smart Village” – a place where a community can work together in an enterprise that will unite the villagers in a common goal, and provide added income for all of its families. This is one of the first steps toward alleviating the poverty that is the source of many of the problems and challenges the villagers face.

Among those problems and challenges are issues that have to do with human trafficking, including prostitution, child labor, and early childhood marriages, which often occur to pay off family debts, or because parents can’t afford to feed and care for all of their children. Sadly, this situation is more common than many people realize, and is not exclusive to countries where poverty is widespread – although that is where the problem is most severe, and the most heartbreaking.

Generating income, as we plan to do in our Smart Village, is not the only goal, however, and developing a community poultry farm is not the only plan. Nor are the only challenges the logistical ones of building and stocking the farm.

Alleviating poverty in an area is not just a matter of money; it’s also a matter of mindset. There is a common and understandable belief – among people who have never known anything but poverty – that poverty is all they or their families will ever know. Changing that mindset includes providing services like education and counseling, as well as instilling attributes like dignity, hope, and trust. And generating confidence, enthusiasm, and determination in addition to a sustainable income.

Our ultimate goal for the Smart Village is to create the same kind of environment that I think most of us would want to live in. One where families can feel safe and secure. Where people can work hard, and earn enough to support themselves and their families. Where they know and care about their friends and neighbors.

And where the chickens can come home to roost.

November 10, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019

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