Tanzania and other African governments have been urged to invest more in agriculture and nutrition to ensure food security in their countries.
The call was made by Bill Gates in a telephone interview with journalists from different countries at the G8 summit.
“Africans must hold their leaders accountable for the commitments they make. Ten years ago African governments agreed to spend 10 percent of their budgets on agriculture during the Maputo Declaration through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) hence we call on them to meet those pledges,” he said.
According to Bill Gates, during the first 1,000 days from a mother’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday, if they don’t get appropriate nutrition the brain development never recovers.
“No matter what you invest in the education of a child, they will not achieve their potential and neither will their countries,” said Bill Gates
He said investments in agriculture and nutrition can be the breakthrough force towards development, “if we do this together we can crack the hunger and poverty cycle that leaves families trapped for generations. We have seen this happen before our eyes in Latin America, Brazil while in Africa there is Ethiopia, Senegal and in Asia Bangladesh and India to some extent.”
He added: “We are asking donor countries to follow the agenda being set by African leaders. This is a transformational shift in development agenda as we focus on what African leaders prioritise via CAADP/SUN, rather than the continuation of donor countries putting funds where they want.”
From 1960s to 1980s, the “Green Revolution” in Asia and Latin America a sweeping effort to transform farming methods and improve staple crops such as maize, wheat, and rice helped to double food production and saved hundreds of millions of lives.
Many governments and donors subsequently shifted their attention to other concerns, believing that the problem of inadequate food supply in the developing world had been solved. This was not the case in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, where some Green Revolution approaches were tried but failed.
Meanwhile, in the intervening years, population growth, rising incomes, dwindling natural resources, and a changing climate have caused food prices to rise and agricultural productivity has once again become strained.
Many of those affected are smallholder farmers. Three quarters of the world’s poorest people get their food and income by farming small plots of land about the size of a football field.
Most of them barely get by while struggling with unproductive soil, plant diseases, pests, and drought. Their livestock are frequently weak or sick. Reliable markets for their products and information about pricing are hard to come by and still government policies rarely serve their interests well.
These factors, in turn, put millions of families at risk of poverty and hunger as well as malnutrition, the world’s most serious health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality.
At the same time, one consequence of the first Green Revolution excessive fertilizer use leading to water pollution underscores the importance of sustainability to safeguard both environmental and human health.
Helping farmers increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term.
Dairy farmers in Bangladesh are benefiting from programmes that help them increase production and improve veterinary care.
Helping farmers improve their yields requires a comprehensive approach that includes the use of seeds that are more resistant to diseases, drought, and flooding.
Agricultural development must also address gender disparities. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, women are vital contributors to farm work, but because they have less access to improved seeds, better techniques and technologies, and markets, yields on their plots are typically 20 to 40 percent lower than on plots farmed by men. Addressing this gap can help households become more productive and reduce malnutrition within poor families.