Besi Balwana

Besi Balwana, a wife and the mother of six children, is a successful poultry farmer. Now raising her second batch of commercial layers, Balwana’s commitment to livestock has significantly improved her family’s quality of life. But her success didn’t happen overnight – it took years of hard work.

Balwana’s rise from poverty started in 2013 when her youngest child, Simon, suffered from malnutrition. She sought help from and was admitted to her local Nutrition Education Center. Within a year, Simon recovered and his mother graduated from the NEC training program. Balwana’s regular attendance and adherence to the NEC protocol earned her a spot in the poultry microfinance program.

In August 2014, Balwana established her poultry enterprise. With the income she earned from egg sales and selling birds, Balwani repaid 87 percent of her loan and invested in improving her poultry house. Service-learning students helped her add a tin roof, more lighting and better ventilation. This past summer, Balwani received her second round of poultry. Now an experienced poultry farmer, Balwani oversees the hatching of new chicks on her own.

Balwana’s transition to livestock has provided school fees for her children, and the entire family consumes a healthy, diversified diet that includes protein from eggs. For the first time they can afford medical care. They own a goat, rabbits and a sow. Perhaps most telling of the family’s new status is their ability to save money for the first time.

While most farmers in developing countries grow crops, raising livestock is what really moves the needle toward food security and farmer resilience. Collaborating with experts from Iowa State and Makerere University, the center has successfully integrated poultry, pigs and goats into the region’s farming and school activities, Nutrition Education Centers and Youth Entrepreneurship Program.