The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development have announced the launch of a five-year, $102 million initiative to reduce hunger and poverty in developing countries by supporting agricultural research projects that help small farmers increase their yields and incomes.
The collaboration will support projects that address the most serious threats to food production, including crop disease, pests, poor soil quality, and extreme weather. In its initial funding round, the collaboration will award $40 million to the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat (DRRW) project at Cornell University to continue developing wheat varieties that are resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease, which are spreading out of East Africa and threatening the world's wheat supply; and $3 million to Diagnostics for All to develop inexpensive tests that small farmers can use to improve the quantity and quality of milk produced by their cows as well as the safety of cereal grains.
The announcement comes as global food prices, as measured by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization index, are hitting all-time highs. To help address the supply side of the price equation, the collaboration will focus on efforts that put new technologies into the hands of small farmers; advance existing projects designed to help small farmers manage crop diseases and grow more nutritious crops; and support agricultural research that promotes cutting-edge scientific innovations.
"For many of the poorest people in Africa and Southern Asia, the crops they grow not only provide most of their food but also an important source of income. It's these people who are hit hardest by food price spikes," said UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell. "Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we can drive new ways to make direct improvements in people's lives, whether by making disease-resistant crops more widely available so that small-scale farmers can grow and sell more, or by developing crops with added nutritional benefits that will give their families a better diet."