Cargill, a global agribusiness, and Heifer International, a global non-profit, think that chickens may be the answer to poverty and hunger in the developing world. Their new initiative Hatching Hope aims to empower women and improve the economic and nutritional livelihoods of 100 million people by 2030. Food Tank spoke with Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International, to learn more.
Hatching Hope takes a two-pronged approach–working directly with smallholder farmers to increase their productive capacity while encouraging more people to eat poultry and eggs.
“Many of the households that will be part of Hatching Hope already keep a few chickens in their backyards,” explains Ferrari to Food Tank. “The chickens produce eggs and meat for the family but are not managed in an organized way.”
Hatching Hope will provide the initial funding, technical assistance, and planning for households to help families build larger operations–up to over 100 chickens. Heifer provides the outreach and training while Cargill supplies hatchlings, feed, and vaccinations.
“Men usually don’t see the value of chicken,” according to Ferrari. “And as women are responsible for feeding their families, they see the benefits that poultry meat and eggs provide as an excellent source of nutrition.”
By focusing on chickens, Heifer and Cargill hope to make a positive impact on women’s livelihoods. “Poultry can deliver quick income opportunities for households across diverse environmental landscapes, because the growing cycle is relatively fast-paced,” Ferrari tells Food Tank. And women can sell one chicken at a time as needed to purchase medicine or other goods.
Hatching Hope’s first project is underway in India, and Ferrari already sees women benefiting from the project. “When the women’s poultry production improves, other household members notice, and women gain influence on decision-making within their families,” says Ferrari to Food Tank. “When women have control over their income, that becomes truly transformational, not only for them, but for the whole family.”
To create demand for the increased chicken production, Cargill and Heifer will run local and national education campaigns on the health benefits of eggs and poultry. “It is important that farmers see that the opportunity for long term revenue is there,” according Ferrari.
Ferrari shares with Food Tank that environmental sustainability is important in Hatching Hope and all of Heifer’s projects. “All of the farmers that are part of Hatching Hope will receive Heifer International’s community development training, which has a strong focus on animal management and improving the environment.”
Heifer, for example, teaches farmers how animal waste can benefit their farms and restore soil health. Farmers can also compost the manure and sell the product as a soil amendment.
Ferrari tells Food Tank that the values of Hatching Hope are ingrained into Cargill’s business model. “Cargill and Heifer share a common interest in promoting affordable and safe animal-sourced protein in diets and for improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers.”
And while some critics of this kind of partnership believe that corporations only get involved in charitable development projects to grow the market for their products, Ferrari assures Food Tank, “Farmers will have access to some of Cargill’s agricultural solutions but will be able to choose whether or not to use them.” Ferrari also believes that Cargill can help farmers in ways that local agribusiness can’t by providing high quality feed and other inputs.
“Heifer’s 75 years of working in the development sector has shown us that if we are to be successful in achieving our goal of ending hunger and poverty, small-scale development projects are simply not enough,” Ferrari shares with Food Tank. “We have to be able to take the work we’re doing to scale. Through Hatching Hope, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”