How Lydia Okwir, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, is empowering communities through sustainable poultry farming in Amolatar District

By Brenda Odhiambo
Lydia Okwir (second left) with the Atomoro Youth Network and Development Project leaders. Photo: Lydia OkwirWith a vision to empower local youth through sustainable poultry farming, Lydia Okwir, a Ugandan Mastercard Foundation Scholar at USIU-Africa and a third-year student in the Bachelor of Pharmacy program, set out to implement the Atomoro Youth Network and Development Project in Amolatar District in Northern Uganda.

The project, which was initiated in 2019, aims to empower 25 youth (13 women and 12 men), by providing essential training and resources for sustainable poultry farming. The community faces economic challenges and adherence to traditional gender roles that hinder growth, especially for women. With the majority of young people unable to access higher education opportunities, Lydia's project seeks to create a platform for inclusive poultry farming, providing an avenue for self-reliance and socio-economic growth.

“In Northern Uganda, particularly in my community, 95% of the young men and women have not attended higher institutions of learning. Most of them only managed to go to primary schools, because Amolatar's fishing culture diverted the focus of local youth and their parents, leaving them unconcerned about their future prospects. Many youth in the area have abandoned their studies due to financial constraints, with many girls also dropping out of school due to teenage pregnancies. With the recent government restrictions on fishing in Uganda, many have been left facing dire economic situations,” Lydia explains.

The project addressed these challenges by providing a platform for the community and the identified beneficiaries to learn more about poultry farming, which in turn will help them establish a sustainable, thriving enterprise that will change their economic fortunes,” she adds.

Through the project, Lydia was able to secure essential equipment, including feeders, egg incubators, and a solar panel. The equipment supported the transition from one-day-old chicks to one-month-old chicks, a shift that will strengthen the project’s production and sustainability, as the chicks will mature to eventually support the production of both eggs and meat for sale.

Acen Racheal, a beneficiary of the project, attests to the transformative impact during the project implementation. As a young single mother and orphan raising her three-year-old daughter, she faced immense challenges. Racheal recalls a period of hopelessness when she worked on others' farms to secure food for herself and her child, often going to bed on an empty stomach during periods without farm work.

“Joining the youth group marked a turning point in our lives. The various agricultural training sessions provided by the group not only equipped me with valuable skills but also enabled me to diversify my income streams. I now cultivate tomatoes for sale, which ensures that my daughter can go to school,” she says.

The project impact has been felt on both the individual and communal levels. At the individual level, beneficiaries experienced improved livelihoods and increased confidence. The newfound financial independence positively influenced the entire community's economic dynamics. At the community level, poultry-related income-generating activities created a more resilient local economy. Knowledge sharing and collaboration have flourished, contributing to a more knowledgeable and interconnected community. Food security has also improved through the availability of poultry products, enhancing the community’s overall health and well-being.

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