You have to wonder about the Bill Gates fan club. Deep down inside, they have to know he’s a kook.
On the other hand, one could argue that Gates is crazy like a fox; he may be an idiot savant, with an almost supernatural talent for making money off of crap. Then again, Bill Gates might be a poor chicken farmer if it weren’t for his father, a very powerful and corrupt corporate attorney who taught Billy every dirty trick he knows. And where would father and son be without the government and media that give them a free ride?
In the end, the yolk’s on us.
Bill Gates once wrapped an Xbox in mother of pearl and gave it to South Korea’s president as a “symbol of peace.” While notable naturalists visit with gorillas and wrestle with anacondas, Bill Gates plays with mosquitoes. He even allegedly drank toilet water, if you can believe the media he lavishes money on.
Now, the Boy Nerd turned Software Führer turned Global Philanthropist is peddling chickens as a solution to both global hunger and poverty. If you don’t have enough to eat, all you have to do is get some chickens and turn’em loose in your back yard. And what you don’t eat, you can sell. According to Gates’ calculations, a West African family ought to be able to earn about $1,000 a year from chicken farming, a lucrative hobby in West Africa.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Gates is prepared to donate a whopping 100,000 chickens to poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Dubbed "Coop Dreams," Gates’ initiative involves a partnership with Heifer International, a non-profit charity that selfishly gives away livestock and agricultural training.
If it all seems to good to be true, that’s because it is.
Which came first?
First of all, Bill Gates didn’t invent the chicken, any more than he invented the personal computer. (Some people in the industry claim he never even invented Windows, but that’s another story.) If chickens were really the answer to ending world hunger and poverty, don’t you think the hundreds of millions of people living in poverty around the world would have discovered that long ago?
To put it in perspective, it would be interesting to make a list of countries that have no chickens. Forget Iceland; it has produced a unique breed known as the Icelandic chicken. There aren’t many starving people in Iceland, anyway.
Though I haven’t researched it, I’d almost bet money there are no chickens in Greenland. That’s precisely where Gates should give his chicken venture a trial run.
According to Wikipedia, most of the world’s chicken breeds are associated with countries in Eurasia or the U.S. Most African breeds originated in Egypt, with a couple associated with South Africa.
But a country doesn’t need its own domestic chicken breed to have chickens. The countries scattered between Egypt and South Africa can get chickens from Egypt and South Africa. If they have access to the sea or to an invention called the airplane, they can also get chickens from the U.S., China or Poland.
In fact, the video that accompanies Bill Gates’ PhD thesis, Why I Would Raise Chickens, appears to feature as many chickens as people. It’s filmed in Burkina Faso, an African country that is obviously well acquainted with chickens.
In related news, people in some African countries raise domestic guineafowl, a species related to the domestic chicken.
Gates’ suggestion that West African chicken farmers can earn $1,000 a year doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, either. Imagine a village of a thousand hungry people. If each villager starts raising chickens, they can’t sell them to each other. Nor can they sell’em to the village next door if everyone in that village is selling chickens, too.
Then there’s Bill Gates’ gift of 100,000 chickens.
Seriously? The hungry people in just one big city could probably devour that many chickens.
If I were in their shoes, what’s what I would do — I would raise chickens.
Follow the Money
A woman in Bill Gates’ video says, “If my child here is sick I can sell a chicken and buy the medicines to treat him.”
Is that why Bill Gates wants to flood the world with chickens, so that people can trade in a chicken for one of Bill Gates’ trial vaccines?
Heifer International’s website is an eye opener. It’s reminiscent of all those Christian charity groups that invite you to adopt a poor child in some third world country, pledging a certain amount of money per month.
Heifer International advertises a variety of domestic animal breeds, each with its own price tag. The most expensive is the water buffalo, which costs a whopping $250.
Of course, that wouldn’t even cover shipping if you had a water buffalo autographed by Bill Gates sent from Seattle to the Philippines. (Just make sure Gates doesn’t cover your gift buffalo with mother of pearl, like he did with that Xbox he gave to South Korea’s president.) But it’s a good bet Heifer International doesn’t get its water buffalo in Seattle.
$250 buys a lot of water buffalo in a number of Asian countries. There are even feral water buffalo in Australia, where the breed was introduced.
So you send Heifer International $250, and they pick up an aging, sterile water buffalo for $15 and give it to some poor villager in a poor Asian country. That leaves them a profit of $235, which they can split with Bill Gates, the patron saint of ripoffs.
Of course, the folks at Heifer International may assure you that the water buffalo you buy out of the kindness of your heart is a healthy, breeding-age individual that is going to a particular person in a particular village. And a lot of people are stupid enough to believe them.
We can’t ignore Bill Gates’ obsession with genetically modified food and biotech, even if the media ignore it. Is he pimping a genetically modified chicken, or is one waiting in the wings? Does Gates plan on raking in more money through some sort of chicken vaccine? Or does he plan on selling a cure for some chicken-borne disease that is built into his chickens’ genes?
Remember, Gates recently predicted that 33 million people are going to soon die from some mysterious, unnamed disease in the near future. There are also claims that Gates owns a patent on an Ebola vaccine or cure.
It seems Bill Gates has a cure for whatever ails you, for the right price. And if you aren’t ailing, he can fix that, too.
Bill Gates vs The Experts
Blogger Robert X. Cringely asked a chicken farmer his opinion of Bill Gates’ chicken venture. (What does Bill Gates know about raising chickens?) The chicken farmer replied, “Bill Gates is an idiot.”
As a former teacher, I can similarly tell you that Gates has done nothing to help education. As a former wildlife biologist, I can tell you that Gates is an idiot regarding the environment. As a web designer, I can tell you that Bill Gates’ software is a pile of bird guano.
This story probably won’t have a happy ending, except in South America. Apparently, Bill Gates lumped Bolivia together with all those poor African countries that are begging for his help.
If Gates had done his homework, he would have known that Bolivia already produces nearly 200 million chickens annually. He also would have known that President Evo Morales is no dummy. (See Viva Evo!)