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Bill Gates dishes out USD56m to support smallholder farmers

15th March 2012
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Bill Gates

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has recently received USD56m from Bill Melinda Gates Foundation to support millions of poor, smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to improve seed through higher yields and incomes.

AGRA report made available to The Guardian yesterday has said that the funds will also help the farmers to increase productivity, food crops, and address poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Maila, AGRA’s Programme for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) began five years ago to produce disease resistant and higher yielding seeds for important food crops.

The programme has already achieved significant successes with majority of farmers who accessed the new seed reporting dramatic increases in their harvests.

“In Africa, farmers have largely not benefited from improved seeds due to a lack of localised crop breeding and efficient, dependable seed delivery system,” it said.

“And so crop yields in most of Africa have remained one-third of those produced by farmers in other developing regions of the worlds,” said Dr Joe DeVries, PASS programme director.

By 2017, PASS will add 40 new private, independent seed companies to the 60 already established under the first phase of the programme, the report said.

It added that the programme’s aim is to achieve yearly production of 200,000 metric tonnes of improved seed for food crops such as maize, cassava, and legumes to support 10 million smallholder farmers.

PASS will also fund the training of an additional 5,000 agro-dealers to set up individually-owned and operated seed and fertilizer shops in remote areas.

These efforts will build structures to get improved seed in the hands of smallholder farmers to increase production and decrease dependence on aid, it said.

The announcement by the foundation of nearly USD200m in grants for the world, brings its total commitment to agriculture to more than USD2bn since the programme began in 2006.

“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people,” he said.

“The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more,” he added.

“If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering, and build self-sufficiency,” he said.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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