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Why Melinda and Bill Gates are betting big on chickens (hint: ‘the ATM of the poor’)


Asafo Flag detail, Fante people, Ghana.

From Melinda Gates
‘Chickens in America have it rough . . . the symbol of cowards. . . the butt of corny cross-the-road jokes. . . .

‘But if you ask a woman in a developing country about chickens, she’s likely to show a lot more respect. That’s because a chicken can mean the difference between a family that merely survives and one that thrives.

‘For one thing, chickens are a good source of income. In fact, chickens are known in international development circles as “the ATM of the poor,” because they are easy to sell on short notice to cover day-to-day expenses.

‘Furthermore, eating chickens (and eggs) is good for you. In fact, they contain seven essential micronutrients like calcium and vitamin A.

Woodcut by Walter Williams.

‘But there’s another, less intuitive way that chickens make life much better for poor people.

‘In most developing countries, raising chickens is considered women’s work, and the money from selling chickens and eggs belongs to women to spend as they choose. . . . .

Many men think chickens aren’t worth their time because the income from them is small and sporadic. So women fill the gap.

‘Why is this such great news? Because the evidence shows that when women control money, they are more likely than men to spend it on priorities that help fight poverty, like education, health, and nutrition.

‘I come across a lot of statistics in my line of work, and maybe the one I’ve been most impressed by is this:

When a woman controls the family’s income, her children are 20 percent more likely to live past the age of 5.

‘. . . [W]hen women are able to express their dignity and seize control, sometimes with the help of their chickens, they transform their lives — and the lives of everyone around them.

‘My husband agrees with me when it comes to chickens. That’s why he’s launched a campaign to get the message out. Follow the link to get Bill to donate a flock of chickens on your behalf!’

Read the whole article: The small animal that’s making a big difference for women in the developing world, Medium, 7 June 2016.

The chicken within, by Edel Rodriguez.

From Bill Gates

‘If you were living on $2 a day, what would you do to improve your life?

‘That’s a real question for the nearly 1 billion people living in extreme poverty today. . . . It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens.

‘In fact, if I were in their shoes, that’s what I would do—I would raise chickens. Here’s why:

  • They are easy and inexpensive to take care of. . . .
  • They’re a good investment. . . .
  • They help keep children healthy. . . .
  • They empower women. . . .

Our foundation is betting on chickens.

‘Alongside partners throughout sub-Saharan Africa, we are working to create sustainable market systems for poultry. It’s especially important for these systems to make sure farmers can buy birds that have been properly vaccinated and are well suited to the local growing conditions.’

Our goal: to eventually help 30 percent of the rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens, up from just 5 percent now.

Read the whole article: Why I would raise chickens, Gates Notes, 7 Jun 2016.

Clothes on the Line, by Christian Robinson.

ILRI notes
One of the chicken projects the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting is helping people in Africa, particularly women, improve their household flocks through access to more productive chickens.

The project is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Its called African Chicken Genetic Gains (ACGG). It’s part of a wider ILRI LiveGene initiative.

ACGG tests and makes available high-producing, farmer-preferred genotypes that increase smallholder chicken productivity in three African countries: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania. Check it out!

And watch two short film interviews about the ILRI-led ACGG:
LiveGene conversations on livestock genetics for development:
Gabrielle Persley interviews Steve Kemp about ILRI’s global livestock genetics program (run-time: 5 minutes).
Gabrielle Persley interviews Tadelle Dessie and Olivier Hanotte about the African Chicken Genetic Gains Project (run-time: 7 minutes).

One thought on “Why Melinda and Bill Gates are betting big on chickens (hint: ‘the ATM of the poor’)

  1. I am just starting up a project with my local primary school involving the children to make merchandise based on a chicken theme to sell to make money for a project out in Malawi, thank you for this information and any support you can provide.
    Regards Dorothy Morris

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