NPR

Former Tyson Foods CEO Brings Chicken Farming To Rwanda — But Can It Last?

The Smith family foundation aims to build a chicken business in Africa, but the extensive project is costly and difficult, and Rwanda cannot yet support a modern poultry industry without aid money.
The Feed the Future Tworore Inkoko, Twunguke project hosts a meeting in the Gataraga sector of Rwanda to recruit farmers to grow chickens. If the farmers commit to four days of training and pass a competency test, they are given a backyard coop worth about $625, as well as the means to obtain 100 day-old chicks, vaccines, feed and technical advice. Source: Emily Urban

The chicken business has been very, very good to Donnie Smith, the former chief executive of Tyson Foods. Now Smith, 58, wants to share his wealth — and his fervent belief in the power of chickens — with subsistence farmers in Musanze, a poverty-stricken district of Rwanda.

With USAID and the University of Tennessee, where he is a trustee, Smith is the driving force behind a $2 million program called Feed the Future Tworore Inkoko, Twunguke, which means "Let's raise chickens and make a profit." Its immediate goal is to lift the incomes and improve the nutrition of about 750 rural farmers; if all goes according to plan, many thousands of farmers will follow the original cohort.

All has not gone according to plan.

Instead, the effort is a textbook example of what can go awry when experts arrive in a distant place with good intentions and a solid understanding of what works in the U.S., but without much grounding in a local economy, so they had to be taught to raise chickens. (Many had never eaten chicken.) More important, this small, landlocked central African nation lacks the physical and economic infrastructure needed to support a modern chicken industry. So it's hard to see how the farmers will be able to raise chickens for profit once aid money goes away.

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