Billionaire Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is taking part in an initiative involving poultry that he hopes will lift people out of poverty.

Through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates and his partners throughout sub-Saharan Africa, are working to create sustainable market systems for poultry. In a special blog post written by Gates, he stated it is important for those market systems to make sure farmers can buy birds that have been properly vaccinated and are well-suited to the local growing conditions.

Gates’ goal through the initiative is to eventually help 30 percent of the rural families in that region of the world to raise improved breed of vaccinated chickens, up dramatically from the current 5 percent.

How chickens can help poor, rural families


Gates, in his blog, stated that through his work with the foundation, he has met many people in impoverished countries that raise chickens. Through that interaction, he says he has learned that by raising poultry, people can help their situation, both in terms of health and finances. Examples he gave of how poultry can help these families include:  

  • Chickens are easy and inexpensive to take care of: Gates notes that he will need some kind of shelter to nest, so some small expenses will be needed to build a coop. He adds that vaccines, such as the ones for Newcastle disease, are relatively inexpensive.
  • Chickens provide a good return on investment: When a farmer starts with five hens that have access to a rooster, the flock can be built to 40 chicks in relatively short order, according to Gates. Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken (the standard in West Africa), a producer can earn more than $1,000 a year, versus the extreme poverty line of about $700 per year.
  • Health and nutrition benefits: By eating more eggs, families can fight malnutrition by eating eggs, which are high in protein and other nutrients. By letting the eggs hatch and selling the chicks, families can also use the money to buy nutritious food.

How to help with effort

Gates, through a partnership with Heifer International, has agreed to donate a flock of chickens to a family in poverty on behalf of anyone who takes the time to answer an online quiz. The quiz appears at the bottom of his online blog.