LIFE is like a puzzle, eventually all the pieces come together’….this is an old adage that reflects the life of Rose Mwelongo, a 32-year-old single mother of three who lives in Mayale village of Makambako Township Council in Njombe region.
Rose has moved from a ‘day worker’, taking multiple jobs in a single day due to life’s hardships, to a stable business woman who is running a successful poultry business worth over 2m/- through the support of Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) poverty alleviation scheme.
Not everyone is blessed with good planning and management skills, but for Rose, all is possible as she managed to make good use of the small cash grants received from TASAF poverty interventions to totally transform her life.
She has demonstrated that small things should not be underestimated, because at times they may become gold, if they are cherished and utilized well with a clear focus to achieve own goals.
Rose is a true reflection of the determination of many Tanzanians working hard every day to fight poverty. She was not satisfied with her life, but she did not despair because of the person she was.
A few hours spent at her house which is located near the main highway, one will spot Rose running up and down, attending to her customers who throng her place to buy trays of eggs.
Fortunately her house is also located near a bus station and she took advantage of this by placing a small table where she sells boiled eggs to hungry passengers.
The mother of three boys recounts how she lived a miserable life before being enrolled into the TASAF programme in 2015. Rose lived a tough, simple life with her children after her husband, a forest ranger, abandoned them.
The couple lived happy in Igawa village, Mbarali district, Mbeya region before the husband, without any prior warning, packed up and left them, moving to Dar es Salaam with another woman.
Life became very difficult for Rose who was just a house wife by then. She was confused and wondered how she could manage to take care of her children and at the same time nurse her mother who was sick at that time.
On several occasions she tried to beg her husband for help, with no success, until she decided to go back to her home town in Mayale village and settled in her mother’s house.
While she was there, Rose embarked on numerous business ventures to try and make ends meet and to be able to take care of her family financially.
She worked around the clock by doing all sorts of work, including clearing people’s farms, harvesting crops and many others, just to get food for her children. But try as she may, what she earned was not enough to meet all her expenses, including those of her sick mother.
When the productive social safety net was introduced in the region, Rose was among eligible candidates whose household was identified by co-villagers to be enrolled into the poverty alleviation scheme.
Eventually, her household was enrolled into the conditional cash transfers component coordinated by TASAF and obtained 44,000/-, after taking into consideration that all her three children were in school.
She says that with the first cash grant she obtained, she used some of it to buy food stuff for her family and some of it to send her sick mother to hospital.
Rose recalls that her situation was so bad that on one occasion she told someone who had a farm that she would clear it for free if only she would be allowed to collect the firewood on the farm.
According to her, the task was somehow difficult for one person, but she had just come from receiving her second cash grants, therefore she used some of the money to hire two people to help her collect the firewood from the farm.
She managed to collect four trucks of firewood and she sold three trucks for 190,000/-, and used the remaining load for her own consumption at home.
She happily says that she used the money to establish a poultry business and some of it for buying eggs and selling them. She continued buying and selling eggs until her own chicken matured enough to be able to lay enough eggs for commercial purpose.
Now with her own chicken in the roost, the single mother was able to collect up to one and a half trays in a single day and on a good day, combined with her purchased eggs; Rose would sell up to 20 trays.
“I keep the chicken for a whole year while harvesting eggs and in December I sell almost all of them and remain with only six, which helps me to start a new batch.
At that time I usually have around 200 chicken or more and the price at that time of year is usually 14,000 for one chicken,” Rose says.
Apart from the poultry business, Rose engages herself in livestock keeping (currently she has eight goats), farming, where she plants crops such as maize, sunflower and beans and also raises rabbits for commercial purposes.
For three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019, Rose says she involved herself in sunflower cultivation and through the harvest she managed to get around 5.7m/-. “I am thankful to TASAF because I can now run my life through farming and poultry without any pressure. My children can now eat three proper meals a day and go to school without any problem,” she says.
In 2017, she says she managed to construct a five bedroom house and the following year she collected enough money for wiring installation and finishing.
The whole exercise, according to her, cost her over 8m/-. “My eldest son who is now in standard seven goes to an English medium primary school in the Coast Region and I pay 750,000/- as school fees every year,” she says confidently. Rose also joined a savings group where from time to time she has been acquiring loans to boost her business.
Based on how successfully she maintains her poultry business, the management of MAMRE Agriculture and Livestock College in Makambako Township Council has requested to use her chicken farm as a demonstration area to teach students.
According to her, this has been very helpful because she obtains all the necessary tips relating to her poultry business without incurring any costs.
However, she has been very supportive to her counterparts who are interested to learn by taking them through the basic process of the business. With the help she has received due to support from the country’s Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) which is coordinated by TASAF on behalf of the government, Rose is confident that she can now stand on her own two feet.
“When the time comes for me to leave the programme, I will not hesitate, but rather I will be happy to give room to others who are trying to acquire the same benefits I got,” she says.
Currently, the ‘mompreneur’, as she likes to call herself, is aspiring to grow her business even further by putting up a poultry farm with a capacity of accommodating over 500 chickens at a go.
Rose believes that apart from reducing poverty, social protection has great potential for promoting women’s economic empowerment and reducing gender inequalities.
“When women are designated transfer recipients, social protection schemes can facilitate their access to resources and promote their role as decision- makers in the household,” she says.
Finally, Rose insists that changing mindsets and perception about women in social protection policies and programmes is needed, not only to protect women’s roles as mothers and care takers, but also to promote their economic empowerment.