Member Spotlight: Levy Odera ('05, '06)
Contributing writer: Amber Smith, ‘13
Levy Odera, ’05 & 06, teamed up with Valdosta State University Enactus (formerly Students in Free Enterprise) students to help create jobs for women in Kenya. Odera, a native of Kenya, was a member of SIFE as a student and is excited to be working with Enactus students on the project.
Odera is the co-founder of the Rural Empowerment Development and Innovations (REDI) for economic development in the world’s Southern Hemisphere. Members of the REDI want to improve the living standards for people in the rural communities and find new solutions for helping small businesses started by the poor to succeed.
Odera and REDI joined forces with VSU’s Enactus organization to create the Wakonyre Women’s Poultry Business in Kenya. The project’s aim is to improve the standard of living for the poor in a rural community based in Homabay County, Kenya, by establishing a chicken farm.
Chicken farms are common within the small villages, and the commercial industry is growing due to high demand for poultry. There is a demand for chicken country-wide and both chicken and eggs generate high revenues because of increase in the consumption of white meat.
The Wakonyre Women’s group needed financial assistance to purchase the chickens and supplies, as well as proper management principles to ensure a profit.
VSU’s Enactus provided a $3,000 interest free loan and a commitment to send Enactus students to Kenya to help implement the business plan and conduct essential training.
On June 1, 2013, VSU Enactus students Shyla Brister, Ashley Hill, Marcus Shine, Tamelonie Thomas, and Timothy Thomas traveled with Jeff Shipley, Enactus adviser, to Kenya to work with the women in developing the poultry business.
The VSU Enactus team created customized goals for the business, developed spreadsheets to maintain important business data, and taught the women how to implement the business practices.
“Our primary goal was to train the women’s group on various aspects of poultry farming,” said Odera. “VSU’s Enactus team was responsible for training them on business management, especially on how to do so using computers.”
Odera said the commitment of the Enactus team members was not constrained to the time they were in Kenya. They created a structure so they can continue to advise the women. The women are taking classes on basic computer skills and have a laptop, so they can continue implementing the lessons that they were taught.
The project not only provided valuable work skills for the women in Kenya, but it also provided the Enactus students with an understanding of the important position they have as global citizens.
“They gained a deep understanding of the important role that they are in and in a position to play in improving the living standards of people in rural areas,” said Odera. “I think they also gained a better understanding of the power of education and availability of resources.”
The project was strongly tied to Odera’s reflection of his life in Kenya. Growing up in poverty, Odera’s parents were unable to pay for his college.
“I decided to start a small business to help myself and my parents,” said Odera, who graduated from VSU with degrees in political science, economics and public administration. “I tried starting various businesses, but it always seemed that I needed to have better knowledge on business management.”
He was first introduced to SIFE while majoring in economics.
“I was thrilled to find out that all the challenges I was dealing with in Kenya, as I attempted to start a small business, is what VSU’s SIFE was specializing in,” said Odera, who recently completed his doctorate at the University of Florida in political science, with a focus on political economic issues in African countries. “They were equipping those in the Valdosta community with these skills, and I wanted to do the same in Kenya.”
Odera plans to continue working with VSU’s Enactus students.
“I want to ensure that I remain an active alumnus in VSU,” said Odera, “To make sure that I position myself to continue playing an active role in furthering education in VSU. Through the REDI I hope that I will be able to offer students internships in Africa and work on whichever projects they are interested in. This includes students from all other majors. I hope we will have another chance to take VSU Enactus students to Kenya.”
The REDI, along with VSU’s Enactus, will continue working with the Wakonyre Women’s Poultry Business to ensure it is successful.
“We are in the process of setting up a structure where VSU Enactus and REDI can continue to advise the business and develop over time,” Odera said. “We have already created the necessary documents for collecting the business data. VSU Enactus will help with the production of financial reports for the business and will advise the women’s group as they pursue growth.”
Visit http://www.RE-DI.org for more information on REDI.