Angelica Benjamin, 28, is a wife and mother of three young children. She dropped out of school when she became pregnant with her first child, and now she lives with her family in a province in the north of Mozambique. Poverty led Angelica into early wedlock where she became dependent on her husband. To support her young family, she started to bake and sell cakes in the local market and on the streets of her village.

“That business was hard. I often had no money left to buy flour, yeast or sugar. It was very hard to maintain a living,” recalls Angelica.

Angelica was looking to find new ways to make money. She heard about SNV’s Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) programme and after applying, she was soon part of the first group of youth to be trained in breeding chickens. She saw this as an opportunity to make something out of her life.

“OYE opened a new page in my life, which I had lost because I was unable to continue with my studies,” says Angelica. “OYE gives new meaning to life. There are preconceptions about women and people get surprised when they see me making money from chickens. In my village it was unheard of!”

She receives day-old chicks, chicken feed, vitamins and technical assistance from a local company which partners with SNV, and she was taught how to raise the chicks during their seven-week cycle. At the end of each cycle, the company buys the chicks and deducts costs for feed, medicine, and vitamins. Since she started, Angelica has raised and sold successive cycles of chicken, increasing her turnover from US$500 for her initial seven-week cycle to US$2,000 today. This means she has quadrupled her business in a matter of a few years.

“I would not be successful without the support of SNV. Their programme helped me develop a business plan so I could qualify for a US$500 loan. I used the money to build a bigger chicken pen and to buy drinking and feeding troughs,” says Angelica.

Angelica also invested in a solar lighting system so she could work at night. “Chicks have to eat and drink all the time. The light makes it easy to spot predators like snakes and dogs.”

She also bought a piece of land where she plans to build a brick house and move from the mud-hut she has called home all her life.

“I bought land where I will be close to important services, while I still run my business here”, Angelica said, referring to her village in remote Rapale.

Through the business skills SNV taught her, Angelica opened her first bank account and continues to hone her financial management skills. Part of her income goes to a savings account and her vision is to build a bigger chicken pen that can accommodate 4000 chickens, which would give her US$4000 per cycle. Another part is set aside to repay her loan. She also has to pay wages to three workers who help her.

She confesses that although she had hoped of a better life by taking part in the OYE programme, she never expected to earn up to US$2,000 in seven weeks as a woman who lacks education. She is, however, elated to be an example to other young women.

Angelica has become a peer trainer, lending support to other OYE youth engaged in raising chickens in nearby villages. The confidence with which she handles her work speaks volumes of a woman empowered.

The OYE project is funded by Mastercard Foundation. 

This is an extract from our annual publication, SNV Connect 2016. Read the full magazine to find out how our work in Agriculture, Energy and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene is improving the lives of millions of people around the world.