Chickens: A Solution to Global Poverty?

February 17, 2017 By Sung Lee

In a world of abundant food, how is it possible that 45 percent of childhood deaths are still linked to malnutrition? You might be surprised to learn that part of the solution, according to Bill Gates, is chickens, which last year he called the best solution to global poverty.

Teaming Up to Drive Global Development

As Gates points out, chickens present a major opportunity to increase household incomes and nutrition through greater meat and egg production. But mismanagement and diseases have kept growth rate and egg production low in Africa. That is why Feed the Future, America’s initiative to combat global hunger and poverty, has teamed up with scientists at the University of California at Davis to increase poultry production by breeding healthy chickens that are heat and disease resistant, particularly against Newcastle disease, which can wipe out entire flocks in a matter of weeks, putting families deeper into poverty and leading to malnourishment.

Increasing chicken and egg production, combined with better poultry management skills, will help prevent food insecurity in Tanzania, build a thriving poultry sector, and drive economic growth. Thanks to strategic investments in global food security, more than 18 million children in the world, including 1 million children in Tanzania, can live healthier and more productive lives in 2015 with increased access to diverse and nutritious diets.

Saving Lives and Benefiting American Businesses

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These investments not only fight malnutrition but also pay dividends for American businesses. As part of Feed the Future, American businesses have teamed up to train Tanzania’s poultry farmers in diseases prevention and innovative techniques to sustainably care for their precious assets. “We can truly make a difference with a program aimed at teaching small farmers how to sustainably produce food… We want to help them build a hunger free world for themselves and resilience livelihoods to help lift them out of cycle of poverty,” said Donnie Smith, former CEO of Tyson Foods.

U.S. agricultural exports to sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a 20 percent increase in just 5 short years, reaching $2.3 billion in 2014. And when it comes to poultry products, our exports to sub-Saharan Africa have increased by more than 500 percent, supporting almost 300,000 jobs in the United States. As Senator Mike Johanns said, “95 percent of the world’s population doesn’t live here. They live in another part of the world… As incomes improve, and people have more disposable income, they want to improve the diet for their family. And often times, that means protein… It means the products that we raise here so well.”

With more than half of all U.S. agricultural exports already going to developing countries, the fraction of the 1 percent the United States spends on global food security programs is a win-win for America. It saves millions of lives, empowers impoverished children, and help build new markets for America’s agricultural products.

Images: USAID, Feed the Future.