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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Geese provide nest egg for Polish town
By Adam Easton
BBC correspondent, Poland

For many people in Poland, it has been a bumpy transition from communism to capitalism.

There has been economic upheaval, many industries have closed down and unemployment is rife.

Retired school teacher Kazimiera Mogila with geese
Geese have boosted the town's community spirit
Rodaki is a small town like many others in Poland. Until 14 years ago, it was relatively prosperous.

Its residents worked in the coal mines and a paper mill in the southern industrial Silesian heartland. Life was comfortable.

Now those industries, unable to keep pace with Poland's new market economy, are winding down or have shut already. Today unemployment, unknown during communist times, stands at 20%.

But now the locals have come up with a plan to regenerate Rodaki. The project was even given a theme song by a local church organist.

Now the streets are spotless and its gardens are carefully tended. Money has again come back to the town of Rodaki.

But where has it come from?

The answer - geese. The local authorities have bought hundreds of goslings and given them to the town's unemployed and pensioners.

Cash down

One of them is Kazimiera Mogila, a retired school teacher.

"The geese provide money for my home's budget, and something to eat," she said.

"I've used the feathers to stuff all the pillows and duvets. The rest I sell. It's a good deal because you can get a lot of money for the feathers. It pays off, but you've got to want to work and like geese of course."

There's much more work with pigs... And rabbits get sick a lot. Geese are a good choice because they're healthy
Halina Ladon,
local councillor
Selling the feathers from 20 geese can bring in the cash equivalent of two tonnes of coal. Mrs Mogila can make 547 euros (361) if she sells the feathers from her 40 white geese.

That's a handy supplement to her small state pension. One-fifth of Rodaki's houses now have geese. But why did they choose geese? What is so special about geese to the people of Rodaki?

The organiser of the project is local councillor Halina Ladon.

"We chose geese because we have a lot of grass - it's their basic food. There's much more work with pigs and you need to keep them in secure pens. And rabbits get sick a lot. Geese are a good choice because they're healthy."

She says geese used to be a symbol of the town and were a common sight in the 1950s. But then the factories opened and Rodaki's women went to work in them.

Ms Ladon says the return of the geese have boosted the town's community spirit. One example, she says, is that everyone has taken part in a clean-up campaign.

Spreading

There's now even a Goose Day festival. Children dress up as geese and live birds are paraded through the streets in wooden carts.

The project won financial backing from the Rural Devlopment Foundation after it won second prize in a competition on "ways to fight poverty in the countryside".

In fact, the project has been so successful that it is spreading to other parts of Poland, says the Foundation's Monika Slotwinska-Lychota.

"There were a lot of questions about geese and lots of questions about the idea of how to duplicate this project in small villages, other villages," she said. "It can spread into different parts of Poland."

Raising geese is not going to solve unemployment in Poland's countryside, but it does provide much-needed income and food for those in need.

Flocks of white geese could soon be a much more common sight in the poorer parts of the Polish countryside.




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