In a quest to alleviate extreme poverty, Bill Gates has pledged to donate 100,000 chickens to families in rural Africa.
"Our foundation is betting on chickens," he said.
Through his Gates Notes blog, the billionaire explained how his charitable foundation led him to the conclusion that chickens could improve the lives of people who live on very little money. Through partnering with organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, his foundation is aiming to generate sustainable market systems to assist rural families throughout the region.
"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" Gates wrote. "It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens," he added.
As chickens are small and inexpensive compared to other farm animals, those with limited funds are able to care for such animals with little capital. From the food these birds eat to the vaccines they need, investing in poultry can provide steady, low-risk gains for impoverished families while potentially fighting malnutrition. Furthermore, Gates explained that chickens are also an empowering animal for women.
"Because chickens are small and typically stay close to home, many cultures regard them as a woman’s animal, in contrast to larger livestock like goats or cows," he said. "Women who sell chickens are likely to reinvest the profits in their families."
As five percent of rural families in sub-Saharan Africa currently raise high-quality breeds of vaccinated chickens, Gates and his foundation aim to increase that number to 30 percent. Although Gates is determined to reach his goal, even he admitted that his own enthusiasm surprised him.
"When I was growing up, chickens weren’t something you studied, they were something you made silly jokes about," he said. "It has been eye-opening for me to learn what a difference they can make in the fight against poverty. It sounds funny, but I mean it when I say that I am excited about chickens."