How Chicken Help Young Men

“How can we help our sons and grandsons find a job and get them off the streets?” This question was bothering the community leaders of a compound called “Linda”, 20 km from Zambia’s capital Lusaka. Many young men in the community were using alcohol and drugs –a way to cope with the loss of family members to HIV/Aids.

Zambia is one of the African countries that are most badly affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic with almost 8 percent of today’s population (approximately 1.1 million people) being HIV-infected. Consequences are an increase of poverty and, not uncommonly, the use of alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with social and economic stress. The community leaders of “Linda” sought help for the young men of the community with substance use problems. They contacted the Serenity Harm Reduction Programme Zambia (SHARPZ), a collaborative agency offering comprehensive alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention services. SHARPZ has won the Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize in 2014 for its evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to address severe needs of trauma affected children and their families in Zambia.

Training Opinion Leaders first

“We started the project with the Linda community by training the gatekeepers and opinion leaders in Multiple Intervention for Life Coaching”, explains Philip Chimponda, Executive and Clinical Director at SHARPZ. It was this group of community leaders that then was to recruit young men with substance use problems. 15 young men were chosen to embark on a treatment and rehabilitation program. The program started with a two week combination of psycho-education, theatre for development, meditation, group and individual therapies as well as sports. After these two weeks the participants and facilitators conducted an analysis to determine what skills would support the young men’s long term recovery from substance abuse. They decided to pursue poultry breeding as the preferred project because the community is located in Zambia’s farming block and employment in poultry management can easily be pursued.

At the beginning of January 2016, the 15 young men underwent training in poultry management. After they had successfully completed their theoretical training, they continued with part two of the project implementation. In March 2016, with support from the Jacobs Foundation funds, equipment was acquired as well as 204 baby birds. The chickens were kept in the brooder, regularly provided with food and clean water by the young men. In this period the mortality rate of chicken is often quite high, but after five weeks the young men could harvest 189 birds. “Harvesting 189 out of 204 birds during the training period is a 100% success. It’s an achievement for us and a very encouraging experience”, said Mr. Msoni Sekwayo a consultant and trainer in poultry management.

Support based on several pillars

After the sale of all the birds, the young men decided to continue with the project and to increase the number of birds in the next batch to 305. The birds were acquired in early May and were sold by mid-June. SHARPZ has withdrawn the technical consultant for this second batch in order to assess what capacity the group has to keep the birds with a minimum supervision from a consultant. The final outcome is yet to be assessed.

However, it is already clear that the young men have gained important skills in poultry management and seek employment therein. Their chances to find employment are promising as they not only have the skills necessary, but will also receive support from the consultant, who has a wide network of contacts in the poultry industry due to his work with commercial farmers. In addition, the project was initiated by the community leaders, and therefore it is their responsibility to further support the young men. Ownership lies with the community and the youth themselves rather than with SHARPZ, who will offer technical support on request over the next 12 months. “Based on these several pillars of support, I am convinced that the future of these young men is promising”, says Philip Chimponda, Executive and Clinical Director at SHARPZ.