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Bill Gates’ poultry scheme falls foul in Bolivia

Billionaire Bill Gates has run into trouble with Bolivia after including the Latin American country in an offer to donate 100,000 hens to countries with high poverty levels.

Microsoft founder, Gates, said raising and selling chickens could be an efficient way to tackle extreme poverty, adding that a farmer breeding five hens could earn more than $1,000 (£690) a year – well above the poverty line.

"Better off if you have chickens"

The philanthropist said chickens were easy and inexpensive to take care of, were a good investment, helped keep children healthy and empowered women. "It's pretty clear to me that just about anyone who is living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens," he added.

The goal of the project, which is being run with Heifer International, is eventually to help 30% of rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens.

Condemnation in Bolivia

However, Gates mentioned Bolivia as a country that he was keen to help, which led to condemnation from the country's development minister, Cesar Cocarico. He reportedly told journalists in La Paz that Gates should stop talking about Bolivia. "How can he think we are living 500 years ago, in the middle of the jungle, not knowing how to produce?" Cocarico said.

Poultry consumption in Bolivia has risen by 6.7% since 2010 to just over 34.7kg a person in 2015, according to official figures – but Gates may have a point.

Falling poultry consumption and production

The Poultry Farmers Association (ADA) for the department of Cochabamba, an important area of poultry meat production in Bolivia, said last month that falling consumption and rapidly rising costs are being blamed for a forecast reduction in production.

Fernando Quiroga, ADA head, is reported in Bolivian papers as saying output was likely to fall by three million birds this year."There are problems in the economy, there is less money and there are fewer purchases. With government support, we need to identify the issues and put in place measures to prevent further reductions."

The World Bank says the Bolivian government aims to reduce extreme poverty from 17% to 10% between 2016-2020 in the land-locked nation.

Tony McDougal, Poultry World


  • David Douglas Caveny

    Maybe "Mr Big" should have consulted with some of the Bolivians before he gave his "top down" solution to someone he knew nothing about.
    D. Caveny, USA "Old Chicken Man"

  • bhaskar dnyandeo patil


  • R. L. Ray DAVIS

    It is unfortunate, but Mr. Gates appears not to be ill informed about the Poultry Industry. It is highly scientific and capital intensive. In order to make some difference in the poor countries of the world, he should get some international poultry specialists to assist him in his quest to try and alleviate the lack of animal protein for human consumption. When he is presented with the numbers, he will be totally shocked to learn how misguided he was. Someone needs to present him with the actual figures relating to Bolivia in order for him to understand the issue.
    Example: A country in Africa with a population of 75 million.
    The government is wanting to establish a formal broiler industry there starting at a production level of 6 million per week. In the final analysis, this multi million dollar project will only provide an annual per capita consumption figure of 5kg (14 grams per day) of meat. In our country the per capita consumption is 27kg (74 grams per day)off a production level of 22million per week. I trust that this brings he issue into some perspective. The only way out is to somehow assist the poor countries to formalise their poultry industries in an effort to eventually achieve food security.

  • Emily Robertson

    The hens that are a boon to the poor are not broilers or any commercial bird that needs to be raised in an expensive building with purchased feed. Heifer knows this for sure. The best birds are 'rustic' fowl that can forage, incubate their own offspring and happily occupy the corner of a shed. Birds like this can provide modest but life saving protein for poor people.

  • gubbi lokanath

    Good intentions to extend help have not been understood properly. such a generous act elsewhere in Indian village households will definitely be a boon. There are NGO's in plenty besides private hatcheries producing colored chicken suitable to thrive on scavenging habitats to suit the needs for protein requirement apart from a source of income thro' self employment. Hence, the benevolent gesture by Mr. Gates is to be appreciated.

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