Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announces $306 Million Commitment to Agricultural Development

SunHerald | January 25, 2008
By Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 25 --The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $306 million package of agricultural development grants designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said that support for agriculture in the developing world had been relatively neglected in recent decades, but was a critical tool to drive development in rural areas, where the vast majority of the world's poorest people still live. Gates was joined by Dr. A. Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.

"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers -- most of whom are women," said Gates. "These investments -- from improving the quality of seeds, to developing healthier soil, to creating new markets -- will pay off not only in children fed and lives saved. They will have a dramatic impact on poverty reduction as families generate additional income and improve their lives."

The grants nearly double the foundation's investments in agriculture since the launch of its Agricultural Development initiative, part of the foundation's Global Development Program, in mid-2006.

The largest grant in the package is a $164.5 million grant to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to establish a Soil Health Program to revitalize Africa's severely depleted soils and help farmers make full use of new high-yielding varieties of Africa's staple food crops.

The other five grants -- to CARE, Heifer International, International Development Enterprises, International Rice Research Institute, and TechnoServe -- total $141.5 million and will support the development of local science, technology, farmer extension services, and market systems. The grants illustrate the range of interventions needed to ensure small farmers have the tools and opportunities to improve their lives.