Thursday, October 15, 2009

More agriculture efforts for the Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is announcing expanding their efforts to help agriculture in Africa. The Gates Foundation has done a lot of work in supplying seed and fertilizer but they are now moving into education for farmers and political advocacy for agriculture.

From this Associated Press story that we found at KSL, writer Donna Gordon Blankinship tells us of what this new round of grant money will be used for.

The foundation announced nine grants totaling nearly $120 million a few hours before Bill Gates was scheduled to give his first major speech on agriculture as the keynote speaker at the World Food Prize event in Des Moines, Iowa.

In the past three years, the Gates Foundation has committed $1.4 billion to help small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia increase their yields and incomes. The foundation got involved in agriculture after years of trying to solve worldwide health problems.

About half of the grants announced Thursday will go toward agriculture research in Africa, including experiments with sorghum, millet, legumes and sweet potatoes. But several unusual projects were included, including proposals to use cell phones and radio programs to educate small farmers.

The foundation gave the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa $15 million to influence agricultural policy in more than a dozen African nations. The alliance won't be lobbying for policy changes, but they will be doing research on what kinds of policy changes would best stimulate agricultural growth in the region and will be training Africans to advocate for themselves.

AGRA plans to train about 400 agriculture economists at several African universities so they can analyze policies and advocate for change, said Namanga Ngongi, president of the alliance, in a telephone interview from Des Moines on Tuesday.

"Technical solutions can only go so far because there are many blockages to development," said Ngongi, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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