|Microsoft Corp. chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates
gestures during the (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
23 February 2012. ROME. IFAD, International Fund For Agricultural Development Annual Governing Council at Rome’s IFAD headquarters.
Bill Gates announced nearly $200 million in grants from his foundation to agriculture including the $21 million Tropical Legumes II project and the $33 million Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project. The Tropical Legumes project is part of a ten-year plan to improve the livelihoods of farmers in 15 countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to bring $1.3 billion of added value to productivity of target crops including, chickpea, bean, cowpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and soybean. The introduction of new, improved seed is expected to address challenges such as drought, and pests and disease. This grant will assist the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). The second phase of this Legumes project will build on the introduction of over 60 new legume varieties introduced during the first phase, by focusing on gender-specific interventions, monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening capacity of national agricultural research systems.
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center’s (CIMMYT) Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Project will support the third phase to develop drought-tolerant maize that reduces the risk of crop failure and will directly impact up to seven million farmers.
Additional grants were made to: the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Agriculture for the Program for Africa’s Seed System (PASS) – Phase 2 ($56 million); CARE for the Pathway to Secure Livelihoods Project ($15 million); Conservation International for an Integrated Monitoring System for Ecosystem Services in African Agricultural Landscapes ($10 million); the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines for the Protecting Livestock, Saving Human Live Project – Phase 2 ($41 million); and the Meridian Institute for the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa Project (PACA) ($20 million).
Gates has embraced high-tech — and to some critics controversial — solutions for boosting agriculture, including supporting genetic modification in plant breeding as a way to fight starvation and malnutrition. In separate remarks to reporters, he suggested critics should ask farmers in poor countries who have adopted such techniques in plant breeding, “do you mind that it was created in a laboratory?”
Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, said his country is striving to rebuild its economy with coffee and tea production, which are significant sources of foreign exchange. Nearly two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. But in the past five years progress has been made, Kagame said, noting that the country’s gross domestic product has grown at an average of 8 per cent.
Kagame urged the international community to “be bold and try what has not been done before. We must learn from what has worked and adapt these models to suit smallholder farmers. The reality in most developing countries is that smallholder agriculture remains the source of livelihood and food supply. Every farmer counts.”