Agriculture

Bill Gates Pledges $300m To Help African Farmers

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged 300 million dollars (about N108 billion) in grants to support agricultural research which would help poor farmers to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

The foundation announced the commitment, which will run between 2018 and 2020, at the One Planet Summit in Paris on Monday.

The announcement is contained in a statement which was e-mailed to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Lagos.

The foundation said that the grants would assist farmers to address challenges of rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns (droughts and floods), diseases, poor soil fertility and attacks from crop pests.

Farmers in Africa and Asia are targeted to benefit from the grants.

“Two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in Africa and Asia, and roughly 800 million of them rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“These smallholder farmers play a negligible role in generating carbon emissions but they suffer some of the harshest effects of climate change.

“As the climate changes, farmers’ ability to produce crops to feed their families or earn an income will be increasingly threatened.

“Livelihoods will be destroyed and climate-related pressures could force people to abandon their homes and communities, in search of better conditions.

“Poor farmers in developing countries will need the most innovative tools and technologies to adapt to the effects of climate change,’’ the foundation said.

It stressed that there was an urgent need to equip the farmers with tools which could make their crop production more productive, sustainable and resilient in the face of a rapidly changing environment.

The announcement of the Gates Foundation is somewhat a direct response to the needs articulated by developing countries in their adaptation plans in crop improvement, protection and management.

“The Gates Foundation’s commitment comes in addition to a 318-million-dollar (about N114.5) commitment from the European Commission (EC), also announced on Monday, with additional commitments from the member states still to be finalised.

“Taken together, the funding from the EC and the Gates Foundation to help farmers increase crop yields, respond to environmental threats and adapt their farming methods to climate change will amount to over 600 million dollars (about N216 billion) over the next three years.’’

Besides, the Gates Foundation and the BNP Paribas Foundation, in partnership with the Agropolis Foundation, launched the One Planet Fellowship at the Paris summit.

The fellowship consist of a 15-million-euro (about N6.3 billion) five-year programme to support 600 young African and European researchers, who are working to help African farmers adapt to climate change.

Speaking at the summit, Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that agriculture was the most promising path out of poverty for individuals and countries.

“The disproportionate impact of climate change on the world’s poorest people means that there is urgent need to help the poorest farmers improve their productivity in the difficult conditions that they continue to face.

“We are excited to join forces with the EC to drive forward research and innovation that will help farmers improve their crop yields, respond to climate pressures and have access to the latest developments in farming practices.

“Together, we can help smallholder farmers improve their livelihoods, lift more families out of poverty and contribute to a sustainable global food system,’’ Gates said.

NAN reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in projects that are aimed at helping people to lead healthy and productive lives.

In developing countries, the foundation particularly focuses on improving people’s health and facilitating their efforts to overcome hunger and extreme poverty.

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