Bill Gates Calls on United States, Global Leaders to Invest in Agriculture in the Developing World

By Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, PRNE
Monday, May 23, 2011

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2011 -

- "Helping poor farming families grow more crops and get them to market
is the world's single most powerful lever for reducing poverty and hunger."

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today told a
group of political, business, and development leaders that supporting farming
families in developing countries is critical to overcoming poverty and

"I came here today to join those calling on the U.S. and other countries
to fund agricultural development for poor farming families," Gates said. "The
U.S. has a pivotal role to play."

Gates spoke at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Symposium on Global
Agriculture and Food Security, where leaders discussed how U.S. public and
private sector support for agricultural development can advance global
security, stability, and economic prosperity. He was joined by U.S. Agency
for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture Tom Vilsack, World Food Program Executive Director Josette
, and others.

Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) introduced Gates, praising the
foundation's efforts to alleviate poverty and improve global health.

In his first major address on agriculture to high-level members of the
Obama administration and U.S. Congress, Gates noted that three-quarters of
the world's poorest people rely on small plots of land for their food and
income. Helping these small farmers grow and sell more so they can become
self-sufficient is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty, he
said, giving examples of progress already happening in Africa and South Asia.

Today, there are nearly a billion hungry people in the world. In 2008,
food prices jumped to record levels, causing riots, hunger, instability, and
a plunge back into poverty for millions. Early this year, food prices spiked
again, even higher than the peak of three years ago.

But Gates argued that sweeping change is already underway. He praised
U.S. leadership for helping to secure $22 billion in commitments to food
security that were announced at the G8 and G20 meetings in 2009. While only
about half of these pledges have been disbursed or are on track to be
disbursed, Gates noted the commitment of President Obama and members of
Congress from both sides of the aisle to spend $3.5 billion over three years
through the Feed the Future program. He also lauded Congress for including
$100 million in the budget for the Global Agriculture and Food Security
Program. He noted that France has put food security and agriculture at the
top of the G20 agenda this year.

"We have a big budget deficit, and foreign assistance is always an easy
target. So we need to tell people over and over why this spending is worth
it-even in tight economic times," Gates said.

Gates said farming is a business that helps poor farmers build
self-sufficiency and improve their lives. He explained how the foundation and
its partners are focusing their efforts on helping farmers get better seeds,
healthier soils, and access to markets, as well as supporting better data and

"In country after country, these approaches have improved the livelihoods
of small farmers while reducing poverty and increasing economic growth,"
noted Gates. "It's proving the point again and again: helping poor farming
families grow more crops and get them to market is the world's single most
powerful lever for reducing poverty and hunger."

Gates cited examples of foundation-funded projects that are yielding
promising results:

    - The World Food Program's Purchase for Progress (P4P) project is helping
      small farmers, particularly women, gain access to reliable markets and
      the opportunity to sell their surplus at competitive prices. Since its
      start less than three years ago, P4P has paid out an estimated $37
      million to small farmers and traders.
    - A project by the International Rice Research Institute is developing
      new high-yield varieties of rice that are more tolerant to floods,
      drought, and other environmental stresses. By the end of 2010, 400,000
      farmers had planted a new variety of rice that can survive up to 20
      days after being submerged. By the end of 2011, the project is expected
      to reach 20 million farmers. The new rice varieties will prevent crop
      loss, reduce hunger, and boost the income of farming families.

At the symposium, the Chicago Council released the first Annual Progress
Report on U.S. Leadership in Agricultural Development, which tracks
fulfillment of U.S. government food security policy development,
implementation, and resourcing.

To date, the Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion to agricultural
development. The foundation takes a comprehensive approach to supporting
small farmers so progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable for the
economy and the environment.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In
developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them
the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the
United States
, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the
fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO
Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill
and Melinda Gates
and Warren Buffett. Learn more at
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Editors' Notes

Small Farmers Are the Answer Challenge (

    - The foundation issued a challenge to inspire people to help the world
      understand how helping small farmers in the developing world grow more
      and sell more is the solution to reducing hunger and poverty.
      Submissions are being accepted until May 31, 2011, for participants to
      build a game; create an infographic, poster, or video; share photos; or
      write a tweet.

Watch the story of "Odetta's Farm"

    - View a video of Bill Gates narrating a story about Odetta Mukanyiko, a
      farmer in Rwanda who is participating in the World Food Program's
      Purchase for Progress initiative.


    - Photos are available at the foundation's Flickr page
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


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