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Gates to give $120m to help poor nations farm

Iowa, October 15, 2009

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it will donate a total of $120 million in nine grants aimed at boosting agricultural production, marketing and farming expertise in the developing world.

'Melinda and I believe that helping the poorest small-holder farmers grow more crops and get them to market is the world's single most powerful lever for reducing hunger and poverty,' Gates, the billionaire founder of software giant Microsoft, said in remarks prepared for delivery on Thursday to the World Food Prize annual meeting.

A summary and excerpts from his remarks were obtained by Reuters.

'The next Green Revolution has to be greener than the first,' Gates said in the prepared remarks. 'It must be guided by small-holder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and the environment.'

The World Food Prize honors individuals each year who make significant contributions to alleviating hunger and improving agricultural production. It was established by Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winning scientist often called 'the father of the Green Revolution' for his work with rice and wheat.

The Gates Foundation, which has been active in fighting child and infectious diseases in poor countries, has committed $1.4 billion to agricultural development efforts.

But Gates, in his first major speech on agricultural development, called for better coordination of aid efforts with the goal of making poor farmers self-sustaining. The new grants show the range of efforts needed, including investments in better seeds, training and market access for farm goods.

Gates said progress toward alleviating global hunger is 'endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two' in a debate between agricultural productivity and sustainability.

'It's a false choice, and it's dangerous for the field,' Gates said in prepared remarks. 'The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability - and there is no reason we can't have both.'

The Gates Foundation is supporting research on crops that can withstand drought and flooding so poor farmers can adapt to climate change. It is also supporting a ground-breaking effort with the World Food Programme (WFP) to buy food from small farmers in the developing world for food aid. WFP has already purchased 17,000 tonnes of food from small farmers through the program, linking many to markets for the first time.

The nine new grants include funding for legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil, higher-yielding varieties of sorghum and millet, and new varieties of sweet potatoes that resist pests.

Other projects will help the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa support African governments in developing policies that serve small farmers; help get information to farmers by radio and cell phone; support school feeding programs; provide training and resources that African governments can draw on as they regulate biotechnology; and help women farmers in India manage their land and water.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a report on Oct. 8 that net investments of $83 billion a year must be made in agriculture in developing countries if there is to be enough food to feed 9.1 billion people in 2050. – Reuters




Tags: farming | Bill Gates | Melinda Foundation | poor nations | Iowa |

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