A prophet’s reward: ‘Six chickens and Elisha revived my dream to sew again’

Church and community mobilisationLivelihoods

For most of her life Mrs Thembani Masilela hadn’t given much thought to chickens. As a woman who grew up in rural areas she was brought up to ensure there were chickens roaming the yard at all times.

Nest egg: well cared for free-range chickens can provide an income for families and communities. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund
Nest egg: well cared for free-range chickens can provide an income for families and communities. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund

But she saw chickens as a source of dignity without any economic value. “Chickens were for eating once in a while as a family. When we were visited by close relatives or special guests we used them to prepare a special meal,” says Mrs Masilela, a church leader who lives in Irisvale, south-west Zimbabwe. 

“I had never viewed chickens as a resource. I have been keeping them for years now, but I was never deliberate about taking care of them. As a result they were preyed upon by vultures and only a few were left.” In fact, she was convinced that the only resources that someone can have are money. 

With the advent of Church and Community Mobilisation Programmes (CCMP), Mrs Masilela’s perception of resources was changed. She was greatly inspired by a bible study on Elisha and the widow's oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). “It enlightened me. I was challenged by the fact that the ‘little oil’ was able to redeem the whole family and from there I realised that I had to change my attitude towards the few and small things I have.”

You reap what you sew: Mrs Masilela feeds her free-range chickens, sales of which have allowed her to buy an electric sewing machine.
You reap what you sew: Mrs Masilela feeds her free-range chickens, sales of which have allowed her to buy an electric sewing machine.

She decided, along with some other people, to start a project raising indigenous free-range chickens. Her first step was to invest in building a good fowl run to ensure her chickens would be well protected. In May 2015 she began with six chickens which, due to the improved care, quickly increased to 133 free-range chickens a year later. 

“I sold 112 chickens in Esigodini and made over $600. I was selling the smaller birds for $5 and the bigger ones for $8.” Mrs Masilela was impressed that she managed to raise a substantial amount of money which she then used to purchase household groceries and a sewing machine. 

“This was a great moment in my life as the chickens managed to revive my dream. I was previously into sewing but became broke and could not raise the money to purchase materials for my trade.”  

Mrs Masilela plans to use the electric sewing machine to start a project sewing school uniforms. She is still continuing with the chicken project and she currently has more than 25 chickens. “One thing I learnt from CCMP is that sometimes when we are thinking of starting an income-generating project, we think we need to have start capital and because we are never able to raise the start capital we never start. 

“CCMP taught me that you start with what you have and grow from there. This has inspired a lot of women, and I have given some of them a hen each so they could be encouraged to start. 

“As the wife of the chairman of the pastors’ fraternity in Irisvale, I have a huge role to be a good example to other women in the community, and to minister beyond words and through actions as well. Through these projects I hope to do exactly that.” 

For more information: Footsteps 95 is focused on poultry keeping and is packed with practical ideas and tips for healthy chicken breeding 

Mkhululi Sihlola is a pastor and CCM facilitator. He is based in Bulawayo and linked to the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ).

Mkhululi Sihlola