Bill Gates is the richest person in the world. It’s generally believed that the richest person in the world can solve any problem he wants, as if money were a magic wand. The last decade of Bill Gates’ life has proved that this simply isn’t true. The billionaire philanthropist has put his (and other billionaires) money to work trying to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done an enormous amount of good in the world since its inception, yet the globe remains very far from being problem-free. Money — even vast fortunes — has its limitations, despite its reputation as a cure-all.
There may be no more striking example of this than Gates’ recent gift of 100,000 chickens to sub-Saharan African countries. Many people have made similar — if much smaller — gifts through charitable organizations like Heifer International, which enables one to send a goat, for example, to a family that needs one. It’s notable in Gates’ case that 100,000 live chickens is just about the opposite of a magic wand: the livestock are loud, messy, living creatures — hardly a clean high-tech solution. The chickens are instead a real world solution that produce nutrition, while coming with offal, entrails, scat, stink, bacteria, and potentially the danger of disease. But there is no better solution for the hunger Gates seeks to alleviate — or Gates and his billions would know it. He’s got all the information in the world at his fingertips, but data is only as good as the eggs it produces or the protein it makes. Bill Gates’ 100,000 chickens are both sustenance and a lesson: solving the world’s problems takes far more than money. And there is often nothing glamorous about it.