01 October 2006

Bill & Melinda Gates, Rockefeller Foundations Form Alliance to Help Spur “Green Revolution” in Africa

Gates Foundation
September 12, 2006

Major Effort to Move Millions of People out of Poverty and Hunger Begins with a $150 Million Investment to Improve Africa’s Seed Systems

SEATTLE, NEW YORK -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation announced today that they will form an alliance to contribute to a “Green Revolution” in Africa that will dramatically increase the productivity of small farms, moving tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty and significantly reducing hunger.

This joint effort builds on the work of the Rockefeller Foundation between the 1940s and 1960s to launch what is known as the “Green Revolution,” an effort that pioneered the historic transformation of farming methods in Latin America and South and Southeast Asia, helping to double food production and stave off widespread famine. Among the pioneers in this effort was plant pathologist Norman Borlaug, a Rockefeller Foundation scientist for 39 years, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work developing improved crop varieties and farm management practices and promoting their widespread use around the world.

“The original Green Revolution was a huge success in many parts of the world,” said Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Unfortunately, in Africa, while there are many positive efforts, momentum is going the other way. Over the past 15 years, the number of Africans living on less than a dollar a day has increased by 50 percent. Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with African leaders, farmers and scientists, we’re committed to launching an African Green Revolution that will help tens of millions of people who are living on the brink of starvation in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Over the long term, the partnership, called Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), intends to improve agricultural development in Africa by addressing both farming and relevant economic issues, including soil fertility and irrigation, farmer management practices, and farmer access to markets and financing. Almost three-quarters of Africa’s land area is being farmed without improved inputs such as fertilizer and advanced seeds.

“No major region around the world has been able to make sustained economic gains without first making significant improvements in agricultural productivity,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “In Africa today, the great majority of poor people, many of them women with young children, depend on agriculture for food and income and remain impoverished and even go hungry. Yet, Melinda and I also have seen reason for hope – African plant scientists developing higher-yielding crops, African entrepreneurs starting seed companies to reach small farmers, and agrodealers reaching more and more small farmers with improved farm inputs and farm management practices. These strategies have the potential to transform the lives and health of millions of families. Working together with African leaders and the Rockefeller Foundation, we are embarking on a long-term effort focused on agricultural productivity, which will build on and extend this important work.”

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s first investment of $150 million ($100 million from the Gates Foundation and $50 million from the Rockefeller Foundation) will support the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS). PASS will mount an across-the-board effort to improve the availability and variety of seeds that can produce higher yields in the often harsh conditions of sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, PASS will help:

    African agricultural environments are highly diverse with significant differences in local pests, diseases, rainfall patterns, soil properties and the desired attributes demanded by local small farm communities. PASS will fund around 40 national breeding programs a year that will use local participatory crop breeding to address these barriers and provide more robust, higher-yielding crops for small farmers. PASS will invest $43 million with a five-year goal of developing 100 new and improved crop varieties suitable for the ecologically varied agricultural environments in Africa.

    Accelerating a new Green Revolution for Africa is a multi-layered challenge. While it starts with improved crop varieties at the most fundamental level, it also requires the development of new generations of trained African agricultural scientists. That is why PASS will invest $20 million to provide graduate level training in African universities for the next generation of African crop breeders and agricultural scientists upon which the seed system depends for growth and productivity.

    Africa has the lowest levels of improved seed utilization of any region in the world, mostly because such seeds are not physically or financially available to the majority of farmers. The poor state of rural transportation infrastructure, a lack of effective points of seed delivery to small farmers, and inadequate access to financial services all contribute to low utilization and inadequate agricultural productivity. PASS will invest $24 million to ensure that improved crop varieties are produced and distributed through private and public channels (including seed companies, public community seed systems and public extension) so farmers can adopt these varieties.

    Another challenge particular to Africa is the lack of a robust market for bringing new products to farmers. PASS hopes to address this by providing training, capital and credit to establish at least 10,000 small agro-dealers who can serve as conduits of seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and knowledge to smallholder farmers, and in doing so help increase their productivity and incomes. This will be a $37 million investment.

    A new organization, based in Nairobi, Kenya will be created to ensure learning takes place and projects are well managed. The organization will conduct monitoring and evaluation of PASS projects, oversee sub-granting and implementation of all PASS activities and carry out financial management activities. A total of $26 million will be allocated for these activities.

The Rockefeller Foundation has already spent more than $600 million (in current dollars) on Green Revolution work around the world, including nearly $150 million during the last seven years in Africa.

“For decades, the Rockefeller Foundation has played a crucial role in creating and sustaining highly successful programs that have reduced poverty by improving agricultural research and productivity,” said Melinda Gates. “Together, we share a vision for creating lasting change that will help millions of the most vulnerable people in Africa lift themselves out of extreme poverty. We’re honored to be working with the Rockefeller team to achieve that vision.”

In June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that its programmatic work would be organized around three core areas: Global Development, Global Health, and the United States. Global Development focuses on reducing poverty and hunger and expanding access to information in the developing world, and will make investments in the areas of Agricultural Development, Financial Services for the Poor and Global Libraries.


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