Poverty throughout the continent of Africa may be down a measurable amount since 1990, but that achievement is significantly overshadowed by the fact that the number of poor Africans has greatly increased due to population growth.
Bill Gates wants to change that, and he hopes chickens will help him do so. And since Africa is the world's second-largest continent, we're talking about lots and lots of chickens.
The American billionaire, tech entrepreneur, and philanthropist penned an impassioned blog post earlier this week, in which he pledged to hand out 100,000 chickens to families throughout rural Africa. In the posting, Gates explains that he aims to increase the number of rural families raising chickens from 5 percent to 30 percent.
"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," writes Gates.
This certainly isn't the first time that small-scale chicken farming has been touted as a viable method of reducing poverty. In Adam Smith's magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, he greatly extols the economic virtues of poultry farming. Numerous studies by development agencies have also highlighted its ability to not only lessen poverty, but to empower the women who are typically relegated to raising and selling the birds in rural regions.
Investing in poultry farming is increasingly becoming a low-risk way for those with a little extra capital to make small but steady gains. That's largely because chickens are significantly cheaper than other agricultural livestock and require few vaccines. The ability to scale poultry farming is also a significant boon to impoverished living in rural areas. And as Gates points out, "many breeds can eat whatever they find on the ground (although it's better if you can feed them, because they'll grow faster)."
Gates says he plans to distribute his feathered aid through Heifer International.
For those who scoff at his vision, Gates has this to say: "When I was growing up, chickens weren't something you studied, they were something you made silly jokes about. 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."
There you have it. Will Gates bring about change to the historically impoverished and oppressed continent via chickens? Only time will tell.