Arguing that the ideological battles waged in the push to increase the globe’s food production create no winners, Bill Gates today does what he usually does to make things happen: He puts money on the table.
He’s announcing a $120 million package of agriculture-related grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to nine institutions around the world, part of his foundation’s growing interest in increasing agricultural development, Seattle Times business reporter Kristi Helm writes today. His foundation has spent $1.4 billion over the past three years in Africa and South Asia, drawing criticism from those say it is “too heavily focused on technology solutions,” Helm writes.
Speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, Gates will argue that the “ideological wedge” between groups who disregard environmental concerns and groups who discount productivity gains could thwart major breakthroughs that are within reach.
“It’s a false choice, and it’s dangerous for the field,” Gates said in advance excerpts from the speech. “It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers. The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability — and there is no reason we can’t have both.”
Critics want Gates to address the underlying roots of hunger, although Helm writes that the current ‘green revolution’ grants do that, including:
“$15 million to AGRA to develop policies that would improve farmer productivity, expand markets for crops and strengthen property rights; $12 million to help farmers supply local school-feeding programs; $10 million for a farmer radio network; $9.7 million to help rural families in India by mobilizing 120,000 women and training them in land and water management; and $4.7 million to the Grameen Foundation to build a system for communities in Uganda to use mobile devices to exchange agricultural information.
— Rita Hibbard