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Gates Foundation joins UN to help poor farmers

New York, September 25, 2008

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Howard G Buffett Foundation have come together in a groundbreaking initiative to help poor farmers across the developing world significantly increase their incomes.

Purchase for Progress (P4P), is expected to help hundreds of thousands of small farmers access reliable markets so they can sell their surplus crops at competitive prices, bolstering fragile local economies.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G Buffett Foundation, and the government of Belgium have committed $76 million to this effort to transform the way WFP purchases food in developing countries, with a special focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.

The initiative was announced during the United Nations General Assembly, where progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and the global food crisis are high on the agenda of world leaders.

“The world’s poor are reeling under the impact of high food and fuel prices, and buying food assistance from developing world farmers is the right solution at the right time,” said Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director.

“Purchase for Progress is win-win—we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops.”

Developed in partnership with the foundations, P4P will be launched in 21 pilot countries over the next five years.

Innovations in WFP’s local food procurement practices, which are central to the agency’s new business model, aim to strengthen the role of smallholder and low-income farmers in agricultural markets and enable them to gain more from supplying food to the WFP’s global operations.

WFP will align its efforts with organisations such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that are focused on helping small farmers increase their productivity through the use of improved seeds and farm management techniques.

“Developing new ways for WFP to purchase food locally represents a major step toward sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed more than $900 million in agricultural development efforts focused on small farmers in Africa and South Asia, most of whom are women.

WFP is the world’s single largest purchaser of food for humanitarian operations that include relief and  safety net programs such as school feeding.

In 2007, while assisting 86 million hungry people, the agency spent $612 million on food in developing countries.

“P4P will help large numbers of small-scale farmers to become net producers rather than net consumers, ensuring that they stand to gain rather than lose from the current climate of rising food prices,” said Howard G Buffett, president of the Howard G Buffett Foundation.

The initiative will also seek to promote local food processing projects to provide food of high nutritional value, allowing farmers to gain the maximum benefit from their crops.

The Gates Foundation committed $66 million to fund pilot projects in 10 countries in Africa, and the Howard G Buffett Foundation committed $9.1 million to support pilot projects in seven countries.

The government of Belgium contributed $750,000 for the project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three other countries have not yet been funded.

P4P should significantly increase the income of at least 350,000 farmers in the pilot countries alone.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: UN | World Food Program | farmers | Gates Foundation | Howard G Buffett Foundation | Purchase for Progress |

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