Catherine laughs heartily as she struggles to keep her three sheep from devouring the tempting pile of maize that is drying outside her compound.
Catherine Mkangula is a 49 year old mother of four. She lives in the rural village of Chukura, Kenya.
Before Village Enterprise, Catherine did not own any sheep. “Life was so bad,” Catherine says as she slaps her hands against her chair. “The house was so dirty and I could only afford two meals for my family.” To make ends meet, she often went to her neighbors’ homes to beg for quick cash jobs.
After completing the Village Enterprise training program and receiving the start-up grant, Catherine and her two business partners started a dual business of both rearing sheep and selling chips (French fries).
Over a year later, Catherine continues to work ckalosely with her business partners. Their livestock business has grown from just one sheep to three. They have even expanded their business to include selling silver fish at the local market.
On her own, Catherine runs a poultry business, raising chickens until she can sell them at the market at a higher price. In the middle of a sentence she abruptly walked out of the house and returned with a proud smile, holding a few of the eggs that her chicken had laid and which she would be selling at the market later that day.
When asked how Village Enterprise has impacted her life she points to Felix, her business mentor, and exclaims “You know! You remember what this room looked like before, and how smart [nice] it looks now.” Felix nods his head and tells me how the very wooden chairs we are sitting in are a new addition to her living room.
With the profits from her business, Catherine can not only afford to feed her family three meals a day, but she also pointed out that they are eating a more balanced diet. Previously, her family used to consume ugali and local greens for every meal. Now, she is able to diversify their meals and can even afford meat. She shared, “chapati used to be a Christmas treat and now we can eat it weekly!”
Catherine also testified to how she has personally changed after starting her business. She refrained from having Felix translate and instead spoke in English, “I am free.” She then continued in Kalenjin (a local language) and Felix explained “she says that she doesn’t fear anymore.”
The most significant change of all? Catherine emphasized how the relationships within her community have changed for the better. Over 30 members of her community that used to rely upon casual labor now own their own businesses. “Now when I go to my neighbors’ homes, they know I am visiting for friendship and not to beg.”
Catherine’s words shed light on the fact that the Village Enterprise program holds the potential to not only change the lives of individuals, but also the dynamics of entire communities.
Catherine Mkangula in her home in Chukura, Kenya.
Catherine’s sheep are more interested in the maize drying outside her home than taking a picture with her.
Catherine shows off the fresh eggs produced by her kuku (chicken).