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The hen that laid the golden egg for us

Young African Leaders Initiative is for the select few. And James Makini, chief executive and co-founder of Sky Sacco is among the 500 out of the 40,000 lucky people who will attend the Presidential Summit in Washington D.C. from July to August.

During the six weeks, he will interact with US President Barack Obama and get expertise training from business leaders from around the globe.

The summit is amongst eight recognitions One Hen Project and Sky Sacco has received over the last year, others being the YouWin awards overall winner, Rockefeller Foundation (innovation for the next 100 years) and Africa Rural Connect.

But what are One Hen Project and Sky Sacco all about? An unsuccessful search for internship led Mr Makini to various companies.

After rejection by a number of them, he visited the chief executive of Cereal Growers Association Dr David Nyameino with the hope that the trip would bear fruits, after all, he was a friend.

Unfortunately he wasn’t lucky and instead, the CEO gave him a reality check: that there were no jobs and that it was about time young people started thinking of ways of being self-employed and job creators.

Back in his cubicle at the University of Nairobi, Kabete campus together with his roommate Samuel Mac Moseri who is now the executive director of finance of the two establishments, they brainstormed various ideas that would provide a source of livelihood. They came up with One Hen Project.

Being from the Kisii community, the project was inspired by their culture.

“It is a tradition to receive a chicken when you visit your grandparents. You are held accountable for the welfare of that chicken,” said the University of Nairobi alumnus.

The two started a business in line with the tradition of their community. They teamed up with two other classmates Linet Kemunto and Denis Nyasente to gather enough capital.

In 2010, and with just Sh30,000, they registered One Hen Project and opened an office in Keroka, Kisii County.

The idea was to give registered members of One Hen Project, a hen in a cage at Sh900 inclusive of Sh200 membership fee which was to be paid in instalments. After the chicken hatches chicks, the members give back two to One Hen Project to pass onto new members.

From one group of women, they have recruited 20,000 members cutting across all genders. The members are trained on entrepreneurship, financial and poultry management and record keeping.

Mr Makini and partners get expertise advice and training from stakeholders like Dr Nyameino, Cliff Ombane and Mr Denis Makori amongst other industrial players.

Besides reducing poverty and empowering low income earners, through their patrons help, they devised a way of making the idea sustainable and in line with Kenya’s Vision 2030. 

Start a sacco

With the many members on board, in 2012, they started a co-operative society called Sky Sacco. So far, 8,500 out of the 20,000 members of One Hen Project are members.

The members save at least Sh20 every week and are eligible for a loan after five months.

“They get thrice the amount of savings,” Mr Makini added. The members are also shareholders of the sacco, a share costs Sh20.

After one year of being in operation, the sacco has Sh20 million in savings.

“After building the required capital base, our dream is to grow Sky Sacco into a bank one day,” said Makini who is 26 years old.

The group has signed a memorandum of understanding with USAID for financial inclusion for rural micro-enterprises to train them on management and to offer the institution exposure.

Building capital base

Under the sacco, they have invested in a poultry feed factory which became operational early last month and is designed to provide cheap poultry feeds.

“The feeds cost Sh45, which is Sh15 less costly than the market price, making poultry farming cheaper,” the CEO said.

The plan is to build a chicken processing plant in the same area before the end of the year.

“As a sacco, we want to capitalise on the opportunities that One Hen Project has brought our way,” he said.

One Hen Project has employed 10 full-time carpenters and engages 30 casuals while the sacco has 15 employees. 

The awards received in cash enabled the founders to buy land for the poultry feed factory besides helping in running the operations.

To prevent the chicken from contracting new castle disease, they have devised a three-month vaccination programme to stem losses. 

From one county, they plan to spread to 10 counties in the coming year before conquering the whole country now that they have a stable system running.

They have also spread their project idea to schools and children through their trustees (parent or teachers) after receiving a hen; they are required to save at least Sh10 every month with the sacco besides giving out two chicks (one off) to a schoolmate in a class behind them.

Makini’s advise to youths is that they should join hands and come up with ideas as good thoughts never lack financiers.