Doaa walks about her family’s small farm in Esna, Egypt

Ducks for Doaa

An Egyptian entrepreneur pays it forward

Doaa talks to her teacher at the agricultural school she attends in Esna

Doaa Mohammed Bakr Turky is one of just two girls in her 12th grade class at an agricultural school in Esna, Egypt, a lush community on the West Bank of the Nile, south of Luxor. And until recently, she was also the only one of her five siblings attending school.

A family affair

The 18-year-old lives with her immediate family alongside 200 relatives in a rural community in Upper Egypt.

Doaa’s family is poor. Her father Mohammed is the facility keeper and gardener at Doaa’s school, but he makes barely enough money to support his eldest daughter’s education.

Doaa and her family pose for a picture in front of their rural home
Doaa’s family farm

An education in agriculture

At school, Doaa and her classmates learn modern farming practices, how to raise livestock and to make dairy products in a lab. In Egypt’s fertile south, where there is great agricultural potential, a network of these USAID-supported schools train a new generation of growers and breeders.

This year, Esna School also took part in an entrepreneurship competition where students submitted proposals for original business ideas.

Doaa attends an agricultural class at her USAID-supported school
One of the several fields that Doaa’s family works each day
Doaa feeds cows clover

A winning idea

The program received over 200 proposals from students at 10 schools — including Doaa’s idea to start a duck farming business. Doaa's proposal was selected and she received the equivalent $200 in in-kind assistance to buy 140 ducklings to start her business.

Doaa walks through a field to bring her ducks food
Several of the ducklings that Doaa was able to buy with the money USAID provided to her

“When I first bought my ducks, I was honestly very excited about them,” she says.

Doaa walks around her family’s farm
Several of Doaa’s ducklings
A duckling finishes bathing
Some of the plants that Doaa’s family feeds to their livestock
Doaa brings clover to her family’s livestock

“Like the kids I don’t even have”

Doaa’s family had raised ducks in the past, so her mother taught her how to properly care for the ducklings.

“Every day I would feed them, cut them clover, make them swim and sleep, talk to them and love them like my kids I don’t even have,” she says.

Doaa didn’t know it at the time, but her ducks were about to change everything.

A better life

After selling the first batch of ducklings, Doaa was able to buy 140 more.

She also had enough money remaining to buy her siblings school uniforms and textbooks, and the family could finally afford to put all of their children through school for the year.

With what remained, Doaa invested in chickens to sell eggs and poultry. Her growing business became a crucial source of household income.

Doaa and her parents talk to a journalist about her work
Doaa puts the finishing touches on a meal for her family
Doaa and her family enjoy a meal together

“She boosted our income and improved our living situation, compared to how we were living,” said Doaa’s mother, Amal. “Thank God, we were able to buy everything we needed.”

Doaa stands against a wall in her home

As her business grew, so did Doaa’s stature.

“I am very happy. My father, my mother, my uncles, and the whole family is happy that I have become a big business woman,” says Doaa. “I make them proud.”

Doaa walks through one of her family’s fields

A Gesture of Hope

But there was one thing that made Doaa’s parents even prouder than her business acumen: her generosity.

Doaa began selling ducks at a discount to those who couldn’t afford to pay full price and gifting them to the most vulnerable.

“My mum and dad taught me to treat people well,” says Doaa. “To give to the poor and the needy.”

High hopes

Today, Doaa hopes to invest in more animals, such as cows, for milk and meat. Meanwhile, her impact on the people around her grows every day.

“We hope for the whole family to have similar projects,” says Doaa’s mother.

Doaa’s mother and father talk about their daughter’s achievements
Doaa stands against a wall in her house
Doaa and her relatives pose for a picture together

Says Doaa’s father: “You do good to people, the same way God does good to you. So that goodness can flow between people.”

About this story

Across rural southern Egypt, poverty is rife and economic opportunities are limited, despite the area’s tremendous agricultural potential. Young women like Doaa often forgo their educations to marry young and raise a family.

USAID seeks to lessen the poverty experienced in communities like these by increasing the productivity and employability of Egypt’s youth. USAID-supported agricultural technical high schools teach thousands of Egyptians to become better farmers, growers, dairy producers and breeders.

The competition Doaa’s school participated in was organized by the Premium Project for Egyptian Small Growers and Blue Moon Ltd. and was funded by USAID. Teachers there and at nine other schools were trained to help test the feasibility of and implement their students’ agribusiness ideas. Students with winning ideas like Doaa’s were given around $200 to start their business ventures.

Through projects like these, USAID helps communities foster entrepreneurship, better agricultural practices and lessen poverty — one idea at a time.

Video by Dave Cooper and photos by Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID