Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates has pledged to give away 100,000 chickens to rural families in Africa.
“I’ve met many people in poor countries who raise chickens, and I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of owning these birds. It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens,” the philanthropist wrote in a blog post. The goal is to see 30% of rural families raising the animals, up from the current 5%.
For years, development agencies have been touting small-scale chicken farming as a way to reduce poverty and to empower women, who usually do the raising and selling of the animals. But chicken farming also is becoming a popular investment for entrepreneurs and families with some extra capital. Chicks are cheap and require few vaccines. Most importantly, for rural families, one can start small and gradually scale up.
Gates gives a hypothetical example of a woman who starts off 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.”
Chicken and chicken eggs provide a healthier source of protein than red meat and especially complement many of the staple diets in rural Africa, which are heavy in maize, cassava, sorghum, and rice.
Gates says he will give away the flocks through the charity Heifer International.