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Zeroing in on Farming in Africa as a Key to Long-Term Development
At a recent meeting of the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, Bill Gates spoke of a new effort to help the farmers of Africa and South Asia build better lives for their families. Telling the story of a Rwandan farmer, who is also a single mother of two, Gates described her 20-year struggle to feed her family and make a living from her farm of about an acre. Her life on a farmer’s income of less than a dollar a day was one of poverty and hunger, like that of almost three quarters of the world’s poorest people. Most small farmers, like this Rwandan, don’t have the tools or quality seeds to produce good crops or the means to get their crops to market.
But according to Gates, this is changing thanks to a number of programs, including one organized by the World Food Program (WFP), which buys and distributes food for disaster areas around the world. WFP is now turning to small farmers in Africa and elsewhere to buy their crops, thus guaranteeing them a market. And WFP helps them get better tools and seeds to improve production. The results have been astounding, raising small farmers out of poverty by focusing on what they DO, farming.
Although many associate Bill and Melinda Gates with global disease prevention and treatment, particularly HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa, and boosting schools and education in the U.S., the foundation they created also focuses on alleviating poverty and hunger in the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Africa, through a global development program that includes agricultural improvement. The foundation is supporting a number of large projects in Africa and advocating for government aid focused on agricultural development. Because agriculture has been the engine of economic growth in places like the U. S., Europe, Japan, and others, focusing on agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa makes sense.
A number of Aid for Africa members make agriculture a priority. Two of those members include EcoAgriculture Partners, which works to develop and sustain landscapes that produce food and support family livelihoods while protecting environmental diversity, and ICIPE, a center for African insect science that studies the crucial roles insects play in African farming and ecosystems.
Aid for Africa recognizes the importance of agricultural development and support. We value our members working to help African farmers produce more food under increasingly changing climatic conditions and we will continue to highlight their important work.
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