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Gates announces grants, urges UN action to feed the hungry

By JERRY HAGSTROM

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today urged changes in United Nations efforts to feed the hungry, and announced $200 million in new foundation agriculture grants.

In a speech in Rome to the three U.N. food agencies based there — the International Fund for Agriculture Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program — Gates said that the approach being used today to fight poverty and hunger is outdated and inefficient. He urged these food agencies to commit to a concrete, measurable target for increasing agricultural productivity and to support a system of public score cards to maximize transparency for themselves, donors, and the countries they support.

Major grants announced today include:
  • Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa — $56 million to increase the availability and accessibility of more resilient and higher-yielding seed varieties of important food crops in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines — $41 million co-funded by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development for the development and delivery of key veterinary vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics for poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This grant focuses on diseases that affect primarily cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens.
  • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) — $33 million to help develop drought-tolerant maize varieties that reduce the risk of crop failure and improve the lives of up to 7 million farm families in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics — $21 million to develop improved varieties of tropical legumes that can withstand drought, disease, and insects to reduce crop failure for small farmers in India, Bangladesh, and 13 African countries.
  • Meridian Institute — $20 million to control aflatoxin, a deadly fungus, among crops in eight African countries by developing an Africa-based and Africa-led multicountry partnership to implement aflatoxin control projects, and by raising awareness of the health and financial impacts associated with this cancer-causing toxin.
  • CARE — $15 million to increase the productivity and empowerment of female farmers in more equitable agricultural systems at scale in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • Conservation International — $10 million project to provide new, integrated, scientific information to help African policymakers, organizations, scientists, and farmers improve their decision-making regarding agricultural practices and policies, to foster sustainable growth while protecting natural resources and reducing poverty.