Bill Gates Plans On Solving Poverty With Chicken

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has come up with an interesting solution to extreme poverty in Africa: chicken. The billionaire and philanthropist announced his plans on Wednesday to donate 100,000 chickens to poor families in Africa.

To start with, the chickens will be distributed among rural communities in 12 developing countries. The Heifer International charity will manage the breeding and the distribution.

"There is no investment that has a return percentage anything like being able to breed chickens."
Gates announced his plans at the fifth annual Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. He also declared that his goal was to get 30 percent of the rural population in the sub-Saharan region of Africa to raise improved breeds of chickens. This would be significantly up from the current 5 percent.

Gates, currently the world's richest man, has also written a blog post titled "Why I would raise chickens," explaining why investing in chickens would be a very effective and efficient way of helping the poor in Africa escape the extreme-poverty line. He also urged the public to donate more through the Heifer Charity.

"The numbers today in terms of Americans who give to Heifer or things like that is actually quite small, so we'd like to see that scaled up."
The United Nation estimates that almost 41 percent of all people in sub-Saharan Africa live under extreme poverty. This plan, if carried out effectively, could bring a drastic increase in the nutrition and income levels of the people living there. Chicken farming is an attractive business prospect for poor families because it does not require a huge initial investment or any specific sets of skill to get started. Also, raising them is quite easy and inexpensive. Chickens pretty much find their own food, like grass, worms or bugs. And the coops that house them require no more than wires and sticks to build. In addition to all this, chickens require very few vaccines, most of which are available at very cheap prices.Despite being a low-cost business to launch and maintain, it would provide a very good source of income for poor families. Gates wrote in his blog explaining this with an example.
"Suppose a new farmer starts with five hens. One of her neighbors owns a rooster to fertilize the hens' eggs. After three months, she can have a flock of 40 chicks. Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken — which is typical in West Africa — she can earn more than $1,000 a year, versus the extreme-poverty line of about $700 a year."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also working towards increasing the productivity of the farms. While the typical African hen is far less productive compared to an American hen, it is a lot more resistant to heat and diseases compared to its counterpart. The foundation is working on breeding the two kinds to create a sort of a super breed that is both extremely productive and resistant to diseases and heat.Poultry husbandry also has other implicit advantages. The areas that Gates is focusing on are rife with malnutrition, with more than 3.1 million children dying every year due to the lack of nutritious food. Eggs and chicken are, among other nutrients, a rich source of protein, the body-building element of a diet. With an abundance of eggs and chicken, parents can feed their children proper food and in effect, tackle malnutrition. Moreover, raising chickens can help empower women, as they get to stay busy while staying close to their homes.

This project is one of Bill Gate's latest attempts of helping alleviate poverty in the extremely poor regions of the world. Through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has given an estimated $36 billion to various health, development, and educational programs around the world.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]