The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced grants totaling nearly $200 million in support of agricultural development projects that aim to help small farmers in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
Announced during the thirty-fifth session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome, the grants will fund projects that already have enabled the release of thirty-four new varieties of drought-tolerant maize, delivered vaccines to tens of millions of livestock, and trained more than ten thousand agro-dealers to equip and train farmers. Grantees include the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which will receive $56 million for the second phase of its Program for Africa's Seed System (PASS), which seeks to boost the availability and accessibility of more resilient, higher-yielding seed varieties in sub-Saharan Africa; the London-based Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, which was awarded a five-year, $41 million grant for the second phase of a project co-funded by the UK's Department for International Development to improve livestock health in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which will receive $33 million over four years for the third phase of an initiative designed to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties that reduce the risk of crop failure and improve the lives of up to seven million farm families in sub-Saharan Africa.
The foundation also will provide $21 million over three years to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics to develop improved varieties of legumes that can withstand drought, disease, and insects in India, Bangladesh, and thirteen African countries; $20 million over five years to the Meridian Institute in Dillon, Colorado, for its work to control aflatoxin, a deadly fungus, among crops in eight African countries; $15 million to CARE to empower women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and increase their productivity; and $10 million over three years to Conservation International in support of an effort to provide new scientific information that helps African policy makers, organizations, scientists, and farmers improve their decision making regarding agricultural practices and policies.
During his address to IFAD, Bill Gates said the international agricultural community had fallen short of delivering the help that small farmers in developing countries need and urged such groups to commit to a concrete, measurable target for increasing agricultural productivity and to support a system of public scorecards to maximize transparency for themselves, donors, and the countries they support. "The goal is to move from examples of success to sustainable productivity increases to hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty," said Gates. "If we hope to meet that goal, it must be a goal we share. We must be coordinated in our pursuit of it. We must embrace more innovative ways of working toward it. And we must be willing to be measured on our results."