Women’s Empowerment Program Helps Maria

61-year-old María is married to José  who is 65. They are from the Nueva Jerusalem community, where Jose serves as a volunteer CAPS member (the local Committee of Potable Water and Sanitation). Maria and Jose work as both farmers and merchants.

María likes living in the countryside, and one of her favorite hobbies is rearing small farm animals, including chickens and pigs. She also enjoys agriculture, and works side by side with her husband on their farm. The first business Maria and Jose had together was fattening and selling pigs. But, the price of pig feed became too high for them to continue this venture, and they found they were not recuperating needed profits upon selling their pigs as feed prices rose.

So, Maria and Jose tried their hand at raising chickens. They purchased 100 three-day-old farm chicks, gave them dewormer and vitamins, and raised them with little existing experience and no technical assistance. Once the hens began laying eggs, Maria and Jose realized what they had learned from this first round of chickens, and so they made adaptations. They built a bigger chicken coop for the chickens and ensured that they had a cooler and more comfortable space to grow.

Maria explains that when she started working with chickens, people asked her what she was doing and didn’t provide encouraging words, which hurt her feelings and demotivated her business. But, Jose was not deterred. For six months he walked two kilometers to the nearest town, New Jerusalem, carrying two buckets of eggs and offering 4.5 boxes of eggs for sale. He became known at the local market and after six months Jose decided to start over with new chickens.

At this same time, Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program met Jose and invited him to a training at the training center. There, Jose learned of the Women’s Empowerment Program and was impressed by its training of women and the way Program Officer Yolanda provided individualized support for her clients’ businesses. Jose reached out to Yolanda to learn more, and Yolanda agreed to visit Jose and Maria to begin their training.

One of the trainings Maria received was SHI’s Self-Esteem Training, which she says helped her business because she learned that she must love herself above all else and have self-confidence. She thanks SHI for providing these trainings which she believes are very beneficial to women, especially those whose self-confidence is low. She particularly enjoyed the training about savings, which taught her to prepare a savings plan and set goals to continue growing as a person and business.

Today, Maria reports an improved chicken business. Now she has 313 chickens and is also expecting an additional 120 3-day-old chicks  of the ‘hy-line bron’ breed. They expanded the chicken coop and installed automatic water troughs. They sell lower-producing hens for 150 córdobas and sell 9.5 boxes of eggs daily across the Laurel Galán, Cruz Verde, Nueva Jerusalem, and La Culebra communities.

The chickens also serve Maria and Jose by providing manure to fertilize their various fruit plants, including oranges, bananas, tangerines, mangoes, passion fruit, guabas, pitahaya, and guava. They are able to sell surplus fruit in the community.

Today, one of Maria’s goals is to expand to having a thousand laying hens, as well as a cart to distribute the eggs. She has established a market and good demand for her eggs; she wants to expand to supply the municipalities of San Miguelito, El Tule, El Castillo, and their surrounding communities. She knows this is a long-term dream, and she thanks Self-Help and the Women’s Empowerment Program  for giving her the opportunity to help her get ahead since they had never been benefited and trained by anyone.