The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it is in the process of creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on accelerating the development of agricultural innovation in developing countries.
To be known as Gates Ag One, the organization will work to translate high-impact discoveries funded by the foundation's Agricultural Development team into affordable, high-quality tools, technologies, and resources that smallholder farmers can use to sustainably improve crop productivity, adapt to the effects of climate change, and lift themselves out of poverty. Among other things, the organization will collaborate with regional and international public- and private-sector partners to support the development and introduction of resilient, yield-enhancing seeds and traits globally and facilitate the introduction of those breakthroughs into specific crops, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
"Without these innovations, farmers will be forced into increasingly unsustainable practices to feed their families while coping with climate change — like expanding crop production and grazing into forests and other fragile ecosystems," the foundation explains in an FAQ. "Such tactics would further damage the environment and exacerbate the effects of climate change." According to the foundation, 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, two of the fastest-growing regions of the world, depend on smallholder agriculture for food and income.
Though still in the early planning stages, Gates Ag One will be based in St. Louis and will be led by Joe Cornelius, currently a director in the foundation's Global Growth & Opportunity division.
"We didn't think that research was flowing down to the crops that matter most to smallholder farmers in a timeframe that could reach them," Rodger Voorhies, president of the Global Growth & Opportunity division, told Devex. "We needed to accelerate the access to the kinds of products and services that low-income people and smallholder farmers need in order to protect their livelihoods and enhance their productivity in a different environment."
(Photo credit: CIAT)