The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the creation of a new initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), to help poor farmers across the developing world significantly increase their incomes. Through the initiative, the Gates and Howard G. Buffett foundations and the government of Belgium will commit a total of $76 million to transform the way the UN World Food Program purchases food in developing countries, with a special focus on sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.
Developed in partnership with the foundations, P4P will be launched in twenty-one pilot countries over the next five years. The Gates Foundation has pledged $66 million to fund pilot projects in ten countries in Africa, while the Buffett Foundation will commit $9.1 million to support pilot projects in seven countries. Belgium has contributed $750,000 for the project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three other countries have not yet been funded.
Innovations in WFP's local food-procurement policies, which are central to the agency's new business model, are expected to strengthen the role of small-holder and low-income farmers in agricultural markets and enable them to gain more from supplying food to WFP's global operations. WFP will align its efforts with organizations like 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.
The initiative, which is expected to increase the income of at least 350,000 farmers in the pilot countries alone, also will seek to promote local food-processing projects to provide food of high nutritional value while identifying and testing practices that can be used to benefit small-scale farmers in other countries. "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. "This is exactly the kind of innovative public-private partnership we need to advance the Millennium Development Goals and address extreme hunger and poverty around the world."