[hepr-vn] Gates Foundation to Give $306 Million to Assist Poor
vern at coombs.anu.edu.au
Sun Jan 27 06:17:13 EST 2008
Gates Foundation to Give $306 Million to Assist Poor Farmers
By CELIA W. DUGGER
Published: January 25, 2008
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions of dollars to
improve the health of poor people in developing countries, will reach into its
deep pockets on Friday for a newer philanthropic mission: to increase the
productivity of impoverished farmers.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Gates, the chairman of
Microsoft, intends to announce $306 million in grants that aim to provide the
rural poor with better seeds, healthier soil and access to new markets for their
crops, the foundation said Thursday. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest
people live in the countryside. The grants to be announced Friday by the
foundation will bring its total for agriculture to $660 million, and it says it
will increase the total to $900 million by next year.
This infusion of money and interest from one of the world’s most influential
philanthropic families is helping to revitalize a field that has been starved of
resources in the past two decades as foreign aid for agricultural development
has plummeted. Several factors led to the fall, including competition for aid
for health and education, as well as earlier failures in agricultural development.
The Gates grants come as global warming is likely to intensify droughts and
floods in Africa and worsen the staggering rates of rural poverty on what
already is the hungriest continent.
“People, ourselves included, recognize this is an urgent problem and is only
going to get worse,” said Rajiv J. Shah, the foundation’s director of
agricultural development. “We need to come together now.”
The foundation’s approach seeks to avoid problems that have led to disappointing
results for other aid-financed agricultural projects.
Instead of relying on professionals from wealthy countries who eventually leave
and take their skills with them, it seeks to educate, train and employ people
from poor countries to conduct the scientific research and advise farmers about
crop techniques and livestock care, among other tasks.
Rather than see the benefits of projects captured by better-off farmers, as in
some past projects, the nonprofit groups receiving Gates foundation grants will
focus on poor women because studies have found that they are more likely to use
gains in income to educate their children and improve their families’ well-being.
Instead of counting on free markets to generate opportunities spontaneously, the
nonprofit groups managing some of the grants will intervene to help farmers form
groups to sell goods in bulk and provide them with access to the agronomic
advice, processing facilities and transportation they need to take advantage of
growing markets for products like milk and coffee.
In Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, for example, Heifer International — working with
other groups and institutions — will help women who tend cows gain access to
refrigeration plants, enabling them to sell milk for distribution to stores
distant from their farms.
The foundation’s largest grant — $165 million — will go to the Alliance for a
Green Revolution in Africa to improve the degraded soils of four million farmers
in a dozen African countries.
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