— -- Can chickens change the world? Bill Gates thinks so.
The Microsoft co-founder and global humanitarian launched a campaign Wednesday to help impoverished families in sub-Saharan Africa raise chickens. Gates said raising and selling the birds can be an effective way to tackle poverty, because they are a good investment and are easy and inexpensive to take care of.
“When I was growing up, chickens weren’t something you studied, they were something you made silly jokes about,” Gates wrote in a blog post announcing the Coop Dreams initiative. “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.”
The billionaire is teaming up with charity organization Heifer International to donate flocks of chickens to families in need. Their goal is 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.
An estimated 41 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live in extreme poverty, according to the United Nations.
A chicken typically sells for $5 in West Africa, Gates said. If a farmer can increase his flock to 40 chickens within three months, that farmer can bring in more than $1,000 each year by selling chickens for $5 a piece.
The birds also empower women in developing countries, where raising chickens is deemed women's work and the profits from selling the birds and eggs is theirs to spend as they see fit. Research indicates that giving women more control of the family income translates into better child nutrition, health and education.
“It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens,” Gates wrote in the blog post.
Gates will donate a flock of chickens on your behalf via Heifer International if you sign up or sign in to his blog Gates Notes and complete three tasks.