For Joy Ukaa in Ikpayongo community, a suburb of Makurdi, Benue state in North-central Nigeria, survival for her household a year ago was a lost cause as she was faced with the responsibility of catering (as a single parent) for three vulnerable children.
All that changed shortly after she was identified and enrolled into Health Information Centre’s (HIC) Household Economic Strengthening community program, an initiative delivered by Caritas Nigeriaa and funded by PEPFAR within the faith-based community. This was possible since she had been a very active member of the Caregivers meeting Forum in her community. At the time of her enrolment she had no means of livelihood and could barely cater for her household needs. Feeding was a huge challenge for her family.
The Household Economic Strengthening intervention program which focuses on empowerement of caregivers on sustainable economic skill acquisition organized a soap-making training for her and other care providers where they learnt how to produce liquid and bar soap. This was done in collaboration with local soap makers in the community.
Armed with her new skills she quickly began working towards owning a soap making business. Having saved about one thousand Naira (N1,500) as her start-up capital, she was able purchase materials with which she produced her first 25 litres of liquid soap which distributed and marketed in smaller quantities. Although she lives in Ikpayongo community where economic activity was quite low, her next challenge was her to get her products into Makurdi, the commercial centre of the region which is about 20 minutes’ drive away. With concerted effort, she found a place in a relative’s tailoring shop that offered her space to place a table in front of the shop to display and sells her goods.
The rest is history. Today she makes about N3000 naira from the sales of each 25 litres liquid soap with a profit of 1,500 naira after removing expenses. As it stands now, catering for her family is very much assured while she has been able to pay for the school fees of one of her children, Terlumun Ukaa (male, 11 years) in a Nursery and Primary School.
While the business may seem small to others, for her, it has made a huge difference as it has given her a sense of direction and independence. “It feels good doing something of my own” which has “helped in boosting my self-confidence” she admits. All this is a far cry from the situation a year ago before the intervention.
The story of Joy Akaa remains a shining example of the great impact PEPFAR-funded Household economic strengthening program has made in several households in Benue State. To further ensure sustainability, the program plans to support Joy in the expansion of her business within her locality. This aimed at further stabilizing her business to do better and to to train other caregivers in the knowledge of the business so that they can also start their own business.