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Recognising outstanding women in development: Robyn Alders receives Mitchell Humanitarian Award

On the eve of International Women’s Day 2017, we reflect on the contributions made by an outstanding woman to international development. Last month Australian veterinarian Dr Robyn Alders won the inaugural Mitchell Humanitarian Award, to celebrate her career long effort to control Newcastle disease in poultry. Through the KYEEMA Foundation, which Palladium continues to support, Dr Alders has committed her knowledge, time and passion to improving the livelihoods of families and communities.

Dr Robyn Alders is recognised with the Mitchell Humanitarian Award in Canberra in February 2017. Credit:

What’s it all about?
The Mitchell Humanitarian Award, supported by Australian aid, is a new annual award that recognises Australians and citizens from around the world who have made an outstanding contribution to the cause of international development. The award is named after Mr Harold Mitchell AC, a leading Australian businessperson and international philanthropist.

Last month at the award ceremony in Canberra, Dr Robyn Alders was announced as the inaugural award winner, recognising her work to protect village chickens in developing countries from the deadly but preventable Newcastle disease.

Dr Alders has had a remarkable career. After graduating as a veterinary scientist, she went on to undertake a PhD in veterinary immunology. For over 20 years, she has worked closely with smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia as a veterinarian and researcher. For much of this time, she has been working on the development of sustainable Newcastle disease (ND) control for poultry in rural areas. Newcastle Disease has a devastating effect on millions of small livestock producers, many of whom own only poultry. She has also advised many other countries on their procedures for setting up vaccination systems in resource-poor communities. Dr Alders was the first female veterinary scientist to be made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Currently, Dr Alders is a Board Director at the KYEEMA Foundation, an organisation that Palladium has been proud to support for many years – including through our Let’s Make it Possible communities grant program. Founded in 2003 by a group of Australian veterinary and agricultural scientists, KYEEMA continues to promote a model of sustainable Newcastle disease control that can alleviate poverty for the most vulnerable in resource-poor regions.

Transforming the lives of communities and women
Village or family poultry play a crucial role in rural households in developing countries, particularly in times of crisis. Poultry are one of the few natural capital assets owned by many households, especially those who live on or below the poverty line. AUD $15-$20 allows an African household to buy two hens, a rooster and protect their birds from production-limiting Newcastle disease for a whole year.

KYEEMA’s model of sustainable disease control encourages people to make an investment in vaccinating each of their chickens at about 10c per bird three times a year. They use advocacy campaigns to encourage adoption and also train and support locals to develop vaccination businesses to respond to local demand. This market-based solution makes a much greater (and more sustainable) contribution to the local economy, as opposed to give-aways and free vaccine drives.

As their flocks grow, chicken meat and eggs can be sold to fund school fees, medical fees, more diverse household diets, reliable household energy and, more often than not, more investment in the health and husbandry of their birds to further improve business opportunities and quality of life.
Robyn is passionate about chickens and their importance in smallholder rural economies, especially to poor women. Chickens are the livestock of the poor, those who can’t afford cows or goats. These birds are a crucial building block in the nutritional and economic stability of their owners, who are usually women. When poor families lose chickens, they also lose the income that pays for food, school fees and medication.

Congratulations to Dr Robyn Alders on her fantastic achievement!


Palladium is a global leader in the design, development and delivery of Positive Impact— the intentional creation and measurement of enduring social and economic value. We work with corporations, governments, foundations, investors, communities and civil society to formulate strategies and implement solutions that generate lasting social, environmental and financial benefits.