Earlier today, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke at IFAD’s Governing Council Meeting in Rome on “Sustainable smallholder agriculture: Feeding the world, protecting the planet.” He called on the international scientific community to unite around a common global target for fighting hunger and reducing poverty, through sustainable productivity growth. “If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture,” he said. “Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering, and build self-sufficiency.”
To further these sentiments, Gates announced a further USD 200 million in grants from the Foundation’s agriculture program, bringing their total investment in smallholder farmers to more than USD 2 billion, since the program began in 2006. One of the seven projects to receive grants is phase III of CIMMYT’s Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) initiative, which will receive USD 33 million over four years. CIMMYT is coordinating the project in collaboration with IITA and national partners from 13 African countries. The project has made great strides toward its ten-year goal of increasing average maize productivity under smallholder farmer conditions by 20-30% on adopting farms. The new funding should enable delivery of enough drought tolerant maize seed to benefit 30-40 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, adding grain worth an annual average of USD 160-200 million in drought-affected areas. “In this phase, our focus will be on developing varieties with both heat and drought tolerance, and getting the seed of these varieties into farmers’ hands as widely, timely and affordably as possible,” said Wilfred Mwangi, DTMA Project Leader.