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In her own words, Scovia Kabajurizi says her gift of a heifer makes her feel like a million dollars. This single mother from the Bushenyi district in Uganda cares for her own children, as well as eight nieces and four nephews who were orphaned when their fathers, Scovia's brothers, died of AIDS. "How can a hopeless person like me become a millionaire within days?" she boasts when she talks about the transforming effects of her Heifer calf named Matsiko, which literally means "hope." Scovia is not quite a millionaire, but it's the dramatic difference in her household income since Matsiko's arrival that inspires her enthusiasm.
Matsiko is truly the reason for Scovia's new-found optimism. Her precious "Hope" has given her a positive chance for the future, the opportunity for new life. Heifer animals make a difference in the lives of all recipients. The names project partners give to their gifts are testament to their passion and connection with their animals. Other project recipients have given their gifts such powerful names as Blessing, Grace and Luck.
Before Matsiko, Scovia was struggling. She lives in her mother's house, and when the banana bunches produced by the family plantation became extremely small, the children suffered from malnutrition. In addition to bananas, Scovia has worked hard to grow beans, peas and vegetables, but there has never been enough to sell for additional income. To earn money, she cooked food and sold baskets in the marketplace. However, her efforts never yielded enough to have sufficient income to send the children to school.
When she learned about Heifer from a neighbor, Scovia joined the Kizinda Farmer's Project. She received training on hygiene, sanitation, pasture establishment and management, food crop production, soil and water conservation, as well as shed construction. She says when she saw her hopeful heifer, Matsiko, entering the compound, "I had never been happier. When my brothers and their wives died, I lost hope, knowing that I would surely follow."
Matsiko thrived under Scovia's care. She bore a female calf in May 2008. Matsiko has not only provided food security for Scovia and her family, but she also gives them a source of income. Matsiko produces 13 liters of milk each day; four liters are consumed at home, providing a remedy for the children's malnutrition, and the surplus is sold for 500 shillings per liter, netting a profit of approximately 4,500 shillings each day, adding up to 135,000 shillings a month. Matsiko's manure has improved the fertility of the soil. Once producing too little, the banana plantation now produces more than enough, yielding plenty for both home consumption and surplus sales. "I now sell 25 bunches of matooke (bananas) every month at 5,000 shillings a bunch, from which I earn 125,000 shillings," Scovia says. The vegetables that Scovia continues to grow have enriched her family's diet and nutritional status. And now with the enriched soil, there is a surplus of vegetables, which Scovia sells to nearby communities and towns. Five bundles of vegetables each day are sold for 100 shillings each, bringing in 500 shillings each day, or 15,000 shillings per month.
The newfound abundance is overwhelming and makes Scovia feel richer than ever before. She sees her income of 275,000 shillings a month as a million dollars, because she has never earned that much money or even dreamed it would be possible.
Scovia's success has influenced others in surrounding communities who have replicated her technological methods of banana management and vegetable growing and improved their standard of living. Scovia's future plans include expanding her dairy enterprise and banana plantation and purchasing additional land on which to plant more fodder and pastures. With expanded ventures and additional income, she will help her biological children and orphaned nieces and nephews complete school.
Scovia is very grateful to Heifer International the giving support that has changed her life. She and Matsiko have provided her family with tremendous hope and self-reliance.