At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe an open exchange of ideas is essential to tackling urgent global challenges. Our approach to agricultural development recognizes hunger is a complex challenge with no single solution.
It is unfortunate that the authors of “Ending Africa’s Hunger” chose to mischaracterize the foundation’s strategy, despite our detailed and frank conversations with them.
We support a broad range of solutions. In addition to quality seeds, small farmers need locally appropriate farming practices, access to markets and a policy environment that supports their success. We invest in all of these areas.
Environmental sustainability is critical for long-term impact. That is why we fund projects like microirrigation efforts for efficient water use and planting legumes among other crops to fertilize the soil naturally. We also recently made a grant to the Worldwatch Institute to undertake a comprehensive study of the highly complex intersection between the environment and agriculture.
Women do the majority of the work on farms in Africa, and successful efforts must also take their needs into account. To that end, we have funded a major career development program for sub-Saharan African women in agricultural research, and another to engage women farmers in agricultural policy development.
Our agricultural work is focused on helping small farmers, who make up a majority of the world’s poorest people, to live healthier, more productive lives. The “uniquely African Green Revolution,” called for by African leaders in 2004, recognizes that reducing hunger and poverty begins with such farmers and their families, and that is why we and our partners are continually working to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met. Ultimately, it will be up to countries and farmers themselves to decide what approaches are right for them.
A detailed overview of our Agricultural Development strategy is available online.
Director of Policy and Advocacy
Global Development Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
First, many thanks to The Nation and Food First for alerting readers to the need for increased funding in African agriculture. Investing in agriculture is the single most important way that countries can help alleviate hunger and poverty. And yet, investments in agricultural development by governments, international lenders, and foundations are at historic lows. As more decision makers and funders shift resources back toward agricultural development in the coming years, there is a gaping need for guidance.