SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Tyson Foods is involved in a project that is producing approximately 2,200 eggs per day to improve protein consumption for many Rwandans, especially for children whose early development is directly affected by their diets.

With at least 22 percent of the country’s households considered as food insecure, half the children in Rwanda are chronically malnourished, according to the World Food Programme. Carbohydrates make up the diet of most in the central African country – primarily potatoes and rice – with very little protein. “Proteins are the most important macronutrient in the diet because they provide both essential amino acids and are a source of energy. They are particularly important during growth and development,” according to the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in 2010,

Former Tyson team member Jenise Huffman began working on a corporate service fellowship with Millennium Promise, a non-profit organization aimed at ending global poverty, in 2008. From her work evolved a hunger relief initiative involving Tyson Foods, Tyson subsidiary Cobb-Vantress Inc. and Memphis entrepreneur Tom Phillips, through his Ikiraro Investments.

Helping Rwandans develop a commercial, self-sustaining farm project that would help feed protein to the population was the goal.

The most “affordable, storable and deliverable” type of protein they could help Rwandans produce was eggs, research by Tyson and Cobb employees assigned to the project indicated. Plans were then made to build a program around laying hens.

Ikiraro Investments purchased and donated land in the north-central Musanze district of Rwanda, while employees of Cobb-Vantress and Tyson Foods supplied technical assistance and training to locals for building design, flock management and egg production. Tyson and Cobb have no financial investment in the project.

“If there’s anything a company the size of Tyson Foods, or Cobb for that matter, truly has to offer, it is knowledge,” said Dave Juenger, director of support services for Cobb-Vantress. Knowledge is easily shared and is one of the most effective, efficient ways the company can use its resources, he said.

In 2009, construction of an egg laying operation began and the first flock was placed in early 2010. By late 2010, eggs were being produced and made available on the open food market, as well as being sold into schools and some clinics. To date, four different flocks have been placed, and the entire operation employs 17 people. About 2,000 eggs per week are supplied to OneEgg.org, which feeds children who attend child care centers one hard-boiled egg per day, five days a week. The remaining eggs (about 13,400 per week) are sold to vendors who resell the eggs at local food markets.