Nearly half of the children in the small, central African country of Rwanda reportedly suffer from chronic malnutrition and at least two-thirds of the population lives below the country’s national poverty line.

These are among the reasons Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE:TSN – News) is working on a unique pilot project in Rwanda with Millennium Promise, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty.

Tyson will provide technical experts to go to Rwanda to help women in five Millennium Villages learn how to raise their own chickens. This will enable them to earn an income from the sale of poultry eggs and meat, and develop a school meals program to increase the protein consumption of children.

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. The 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans severely damaged the country’s already fragile economic base. The country has since been working with the international community to generate social and economic development.

Tyson’s involvement with Millennium Promise began in January 2008, when the company’s Jenise Huffman went to work for the organization on a nine-month corporate service fellowship. She provided her knowledge of strategy, marketing, and business development with the Millennium Promise staff and also traveled to Africa.

“Because of the 1994 genocide there remains sorrow in the eyes of the people of Rwanda, yet they also have a desire to move on and make their country a better place for themselves and their children,” says Huffman, Tyson’s director of sustainability. “I came to realize Tyson could form a deeper relationship with Millennium Promise and play a role in its efforts to alleviate malnutrition among the children in these villages, while also giving the adults an opportunity to earn an income.”

If the Tyson pilot project is successful, it will be expanded to help people in other Millennium Villages in Africa. However, other than providing consultation, Tyson Foods presently has no plans to be involved in commercial chicken production there.

The Millennium Villages initiative includes 80 villages across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda). Using advances in science and technology, project personnel work with the villages to create and facilitate sustainable, community-led action plans tailored to the villages’ specific needs and designed to address such concerns as hunger, disease and inadequate education.

Tyson’s partnership with Millennium Promise is an extension of the company’s efforts to fight hunger in the United States. Over the past eight years the company has donated 54 million pounds of food to hunger relief agencies around the United States.

The mission of Millennium Promise is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)–eight globally endorsed objectives that address the many aspects of extreme poverty–in Africa by 2015. To that end, Millennium Promise works with impoverished communities, national and local governments, and partner organizations to implement high-impact programs aimed at transforming lives on the continent and engaging donor nations, corporations, and the general public in the effort.

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