By Betsy Ramser Jaime
‘I, Lucas Omuko, was born in one of the poorest and violent “hoods” of Thika. Second born in a family of Six brothers and sisters, it was not easy growing up. Many days we went without food, but mama was determined to send us all to school. Her belief was that at least with a high school education, we could get by, and be ready for the job market. I got good grades in high school, and I could see myself in Uni. However, this was not to be.’
When it came to her children’s education, Lucas’s mother was faced with a lot of difficult choices. With a desire to help his family, Lucas started taking a variety of odd jobs and ended up at a factory. He knew that he had the grades to attend college and secretly suffered knowing that he could do more with his life than carry around heavy boxes.
Finally, he’d had enough. After failing to secure a job for the day, he left the factory and never returned. He notes, ‘Instead, I sought solace in the only place that had meaning to me; a district library about four kilometers from where we lived.’ Unfortunately, now that he was not contributing financially to the family, he was ostracized and forced to leave his home.
However, he didn’t let this setback discourage him. Instead, he moved out and started applying the skills that he had taught himself regarding repairing electronics. He quickly became a repair technician, got married, and eventually pursued the college education that he had longed for, graduating in December 2015. He is even on course to soon complete his Master’s degree as well.
By early 2015, Lucas set his sights on the agri business. He saw the potential in raising chickens and began by building a standard chicken coop that could house 300-500 birds. He says, ‘The reason for going into chicken is because I realized that the farmers in Kisii cannot satisfy the existing demand for chicken and eggs. Eggs are being imported from Uganda. I am aiming to be the person people come to when they want affordable chicken in Kisii. To achieve this, I am seeking someone, or people who will see beyond the cry for self preservation and into the desire to break free of the poverty cycle, not just for myself, but others too, by providing them with affordable food sources; someone or people to lend me a hand and see this vision come true.’
With this vision, he soon after discovered Zidisha. In January 2016, Lucas requested his first Zidisha funded loan of $100 which he used to increase his number of chickens. A few months later, with a 3 part plan in place, he requested his next loan of $202. He used the first third of the loan to purchase feeding ingredients to make his own feed. He predicted that this would cut down his feeding costs by about 35%. In addition, part of the loan would go towards purchasing 50 new birds. Thirdly, he planned to use the remainder of the loan to make some improvements to his chicken coop to accommodate for more ventilation and space.
A few months later, in July 2016, Lucas requested his next loan of $303 to purchase more birds. He also planned to create a raised floor on one side of the coop to separate the growing birds from the mature birds. Finally, with the rest of this loan, he purchased additional vaccines and medicine.
On December 7, 2017, Lucas excitedly shared, ‘I am thankful for having my two sons with me at home. We get to play games together, and we all look forward to the evenings when I get back home so we can share stories and try to beat each other in playing soccer video games. I don’t always win, neither do they. The highlight of it all is getting daily updates from the elder son, Amos, on how the chicken are doing. He has taken up the role of managing the chicken, and I am reduced to overseeing what he does every once in awhile. He has set up a routine for himself, and has even mastered how to mix the feeds. He sometimes forgets to provide water for the sixty high-grade chicks (a later addition from five weeks ago) in the night (they drink a lot of water). About four times I have had to do it in the middle of the night. He has transformed into an accountable and responsible teen. What else could a parent wish for? I am thankful.’
By January 2017, Luas was ready to buy an incubator. He had found that a hen could only successfully manage seven big eggs, so, with a $454 Zidisha funded loan in hand, he set out to purchase a good incubator that would require little attention. An added benefit was that he could share it with other farmers in his community. He predicted that the incubator could hold around 96 eggs.
On January 9, 2017, Lucas took to his discussion board and posted, ‘Thank you lenders for your confidence and contributions. I really appreciate your generosity and kindness. I realize there are many people who borrow, and some never get fully funded. Once again, thank you. Over time, hope to achieve one of my dreams; to be the most affordable source of chicken in the region. With my knowledge of feed formulation, different from the mainstream ideas, and disease management (again different from the mainstream practices), and now the ability to hatch chicks, I can say it is more likely that once I am done with own studies, I will devote a good amount of time to grow this venture, and all this because of your help.’
Lucas requested his most recent loan for $676 in August 2017. He says, ‘With this current loan, I will invest in something I tried before, and which is turning out to be central to my interest in education through poultry production. Animal feed production. This is a viable market, and the demand is there. I will use this loan to buy maize, and fishmeal primarily, and what is left, I will start as savings for a mill/crusher, or animal feeds machine.’
He has even inspired some other members of his community to get into the chicken farming business themselves!
Most recently, on August 27, 2017, he shares, ‘I take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your investment in me. Your trusting me with your money is something that I cannot thank you enough for. This loan will go a long way to alleviate some financial constraints I have had because I am able to free some of my finances for school, and still have enough to invest in my proposed project. I really want to upset the chicken market balance in Kisii. I still look forward to the day when I shall be able to reduce production costs to a point where I can be the most affordable supplier of Chicken and feeds in Kisii. It is a big ask, but possible.
Lucas has truly taken what might have seemed to be an insurmountable problem, and now serves as an inspiration for his family, sons, and community. He concludes, ‘Being able to manage my son’s education is one of the reasons we have worked to grow the business. This would not have been possible without the money from Zidisha lenders.’
Are you an advocate for education and change? If so, head on over to our Lend page and find other incredible borrowers who are hoping to change their lives through education.