Bill Gates' plan to donate chickens to help end global poverty faces obstacle

Microsoft cofounder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. Credit: JP Yim/Getty Images

Microsoft cofounder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. Credit: JP Yim/Getty Images

Earlier this month, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates announced a plan to donate 100,000 baby chickens to poor nations in an effort to end extreme poverty. Gates presented his plan at the World Trade Center tower in Manhattan on June 8, as a man beside him took out and held a chick from a large chicken coop set up next to them.

The chicks will go to rural areas in two dozen developing countries, from Burkina Faso to Bolivia, where the Heifer International charity manages breeding operations and distribution, according to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, said that “raising and selling chickens can lift families out of poverty, and a farmer breeding 250 chickens a year could make $1,250 U.S.” He added that there’s “no investment that has a return percentage anything like being able to breed chickens.”

But Bolivia, one of the countries set to receive the donation, has refused to accept it, considering Gates' gift as "offensive."

According to the Financial Times, Bolivia's minister of land and rural development, César Cocarico, said: "[Gates] does not know Bolivia’s reality to think we are living 500 years ago, in the middle of the jungle not knowing how to produce." Cocarico also asked that Gates apologize to them.

Gates had said he aimed to raise household chicken ownership in places such as West Africa, where it is now five percent, to 30 percent. "The numbers today in terms of Americans who give to Heifer or things like that is actually quite small, so we'd like to see that scaled up," Gates said.

Referring to the proverb that teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime, he said: "The parable could have been stated in terms of giving somebody a chicken and showing them how to raise chickens."

According to the U.N., an estimated 800 million people live in extreme poverty, with those in fragile and conflict-torn states suffering the most.