With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, six nonprofit agricultural development organizations are helping hundreds of thousands of poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia grow more productive, profitable, and sustainable crops.
Three-quarters of the world's poorest people rely on farming small plots of land to feed themselves and their families. Helping these small farmers grow more crops and get them to market can have a tremendous impact on reducing hunger and poverty and associated problems.
But it's a complicated challenge that requires support and investments across the agricultural value chain--from cultivating better seeds and soil conditions to improving farm management, access to markets, and government policies.
In 2008, we announced $306 million in grants to six organizations to help poor farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia boost their productivity, increase their incomes, and improve their lives. When we announced the grants, I promised to post annual updates about the projects as a way to share the progress, setbacks, and lessons of our work in agricultural development.
Looking at the 2010 updates that have just been posted to the foundation website, I'm amazed at the life-changing results that our grantees have achieved in such a short time. In the last year, these organizations have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers and they are on track to help more than 5 million farming families in the years ahead.
Here are some highlights from the 2010 updates:
- In many parts of India and Africa, small farmers rely solely on rainwater to grow their crops and can produce barely enough food for their own subsistence. International Development Enterprises (IDE) last year worked with 731 agricultural equipment dealers to make affordable small-scale irrigation systems available to more than 100,000 farmers. IDE also helped about 12,000 farmers secure microfinancing to pay for the new systems. As a result, these small-farm families have been able to produce and sell surplus crops and increase their incomes by an average of600 per year--enough to pay for school, healthcare, and invest in their farms.
The annual progress reports on these organizations enable us to see what's been working well in each program, and to adjust our strategies to address unexpected challenges and to adapt to the evolving needs of local communities and individual farmers. I'm encouraged by the strides that our nonprofit partners and the farmers are making through these programs despite challenging conditions. At the same time, I see how much more needs to be done.
Since 2006, the foundation has committed more than $1.5 billion in grants to support agricultural development efforts. The G8 and G20 nations have committed $22 billion to food security over three years and African countries and leaders are also making big increases in their domestic investment in agriculture.
This renewed attention to agricultural development is important. We know that better farming is the most important solution for overcoming hunger and poverty, and that the investments the foundation and others are making can have an incredible impact in a relatively short period of time.