The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has unveiled a new agriculture plan that includes a commitment of approximately $73 million to help small farmers in impoverished countries boost crop yields and reduce their costs, the Associated Press reports.
Presented by Gates CEO Jeff Raikes at a conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the plan calls for the foundation to spend $40 million over the next five years to develop drought-tolerant corn, $13 million over four years to develop more efficient irrigation systems, $10 million over four years to help women develop education and training programs related to agriculture, and $10 million over three years to develop public policies aimed at increasing crop yields. According to Raikes, the foundation has a long-term goal of tripling the income of 150 million small farmers by 2025.
According to Raikes, geographic concentration and lifestyle similarities among the poorest of the poor mean that problems of hunger and poverty can be solved if there is more attention paid to agricultural development — an area that has been largely ignored by poor countries and the large donor nations that give them aid. Hundreds of millions of farmers are realizing just a fraction of their potential, said Raikes. Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has room to grow agriculturally, as just 5 percent of its crop land is now irrigated.
Raikes also noted that global climate change could pose significant new challenges, pointing to projections that precipitation in Africa could decrease in coming decades. "We have to think about adapting," he said. "It means we have to have the agility to respond."