Gates Foundation Unveils New Agricultural Policy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world’s largest donors to international agricultural research for development, has announced tighter priorities for its funding for Africa and South Asia, concentrating on key target countries and crops.

In Africa the focus will be on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. These countries will benefit from significant investment “to translate the movement [of research and development (R&D)] from the lab to farmers’ fields,” said Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of the foundation’s Agriculture Development Division.

In India work will focus on the two poorest states, Bihar and Orissa, and there will be a separate programme in Bangladesh.

“This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other countries but it certainly means that these are the areas where we would see significant investments from our side and see spill-over benefits to other countries,” Pingali told a seminar on the foundation’s agricultural policies portfolio at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the United States, last week (2 November).

Pingali said the country focus was part of a two-pronged approach, with the second prong concentrating on international research, policy and advocacy, and stepping up global funding for improvements in collecting and analysing data on agricultural production and improvements.

Funding for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme and some other agencies will also be strengthened.

The Gates Foundation’s US$1.7 billion of agriculture research funding until 2010 had been geared towards smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. But Pingali said there was a need to be more targeted. In particular, he said, the foundation wants to understand the entire value chain “from molecule to mouth” and work out what are the necessary investments.

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