An app developed at the University of Georgia is partially responsible for the Jan 23 announcement that the World Poultry Foundation has been awarded a four-year $21.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enhance poultry production in Africa.
Justin Fowler, an assistant professor in the UGA Poultry Science Department, released the FeedMix app last year to help farmers mix the right ratio of feed ingredients needed to maintain a healthy flock.
Randall Ennis, CEO of the World Poultry Foundation, told Global Atlanta that Dr. Fowler developed the app after working with the Ghana Association of Poultry Farmers in 2016. He said that the World Poultry Foundation had been working for several years on developing appropriate feeding programs for poultry raised in rural Africa and counted the new app, which it helped fund, among the results of its efforts.
“We’re thrilled about the grant, of course,” he added, “but really we’re most excited about the program.”
The Gates Foundation funding has been earmarked for Nigeria and Tanzania where despite the lack of transportation infrastructure World Poultry Foundation scientists located embryonic poultry raising programs that they could accelerate. The omnipresence of mobile phones also was an important factor in their evaluation, he said.
Among other reasons for selecting Nigeria and Tanzania he cited the cooperation of their government ministries and the support of private U.S. companies for the World Poultry Foundation’s efforts to train and educate rural farmers.
According to a UGA news release, Dr. Fowler was often asked by Ghanaian farmers about the health of their flocks, and he would reply with questions about the chickens’ nutrition and the amount of protein and calcium provided in their diet.
”They’d tell me, ‘We just make our feed ourselves; we don’t know what nutrients are in it,’” he said. “This app allows them to enter in what they’re mixing into the feed, and it will give them information about the nutrient balance of that mix.”
This information already had been compiled by Gene Pesti, professor of poultry science and animal nutrition at UGA, into a series of Excel workbooks requiring access to often unavailable desktop or laptop computers. But even small farmers have smartphones, Dr. Fowler said.
Mr. Ennis said that the World Poultry Foundation had the goal of affecting 2.5 million households across the two countries by the end of the four-year initiative by providing technical assistance and training and offering access to markets that may not have been possible before.
“Unlike past approached of delivering free chicks and feed to the rural farmers,” he said, “this project will focus on training and extension support to build a sustainable value chain.”
In addition, he said that the Gates grant would help establish more than 1,500 entrepreneurial enterprises, primarily owned and managed by women, that will supply healthy brooded and vaccinated chicks to the rural smallholder farmers.
The World Poultry Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to promoting economic development in emerging markets outside of the U.S. by providing education and technical training on poultry production.