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Child's 'One Hen' Lays Microlending Success

Mar 6, 2008 (All Things Considered)

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A new children's book tells the story of what happens when a young boy living in Ghana in West Africa borrows a few coins from his village's collective fund.

The boy, Kojo, has an idea: to buy one hen. He walks two hours to a chicken farm in a neighboring village, and he finds the hen he wants — plump and brown, with a bright red comb.

He buys that hen — with the hopes of selling some of the eggs she lays in order to buy more hens.

And he does buy more hens — and more and more of them.

One Hen, written by Katie Smith Milway, chronicles what evolves from that small loan and is based on the story of Kwabena Darko.

Like Kojo, Darko is from a small village in Ghana and his father died when he was young.

Darko tells Melissa Block that chickens came into his life after he read a book on chicken farming and won a scholarship to study poultry science at college in Israel.

Later, Darko worked for his stepfather on his farm; its small flock of chickens grew to 100,000 egg-laying hens. But soon, Darko decided he wanted to start his own poultry farm.

As with Kojo in the book, author Milway says the turning point for Darko came when a banker finally takes a chance and gives him a loan.

"It's a real fulcrum point in the life of any microentrepreneur, when they can go from a small loan that's given by a nongovernmental organization ... to real commercial credit. And that's one thing I loved about his story, is that he made that leap," she says.

As Kojo's farm grows, his wealth spreads throughout the community as more people gain employment, go to school and come back to ask Kojo for their own loans.

That part of the story also mirrors Darko's experience: 650 people now work at his farm and he has granted small loans to entrepreneurs such as bakers, dressmakers and traders in his own community. His repayment rate? 98 percent.

Darko says he hopes his story will inspire other children.

"If kids read a story like that, they can say, 'Oh, it's possible.' It brings hope to the hopeless, and it also helps them to imagine that 'Oh, it's possible in the future that I can also begin to grow and become somebody so that I can also affect others, '" he says.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

See Kojo and his plump brown hen.

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