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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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United States

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) 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.

The Foundation supports agricultural development because:

Approximately 1 billion people live in chronic hunger and more than 1 billion live in extreme poverty.

Many are small farmers in the developing world. Their success or failure determines whether they have enough to eat, are able to send their children to school, and can earn any money to save.

Small farmers in the developing world face many challenges:

  • Their soil is often degraded from overuse.
  • They lack quality seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, and other farming supplies.
  • Their crops are threatened by diseases, pests, and drought.
  • When small farmers do manage to grow a good crop, they frequently lack access to markets.

Funders have sharply cut their international aid to agricultural development over the past few decades.

The majority of agricultural research and technology doesn’t reach or benefit small farmers in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture employs two-thirds of the population but accounts for only 4 percent of government spending.

Improvements in agriculture help people in poverty improve their lives.

When small farmers are able to get more out of their land and labor, their families eat better, earn more money, and lead healthier lives. In Asia and Latin America, improvements in rice and wheat crops several decades ago doubled yields, saved hundreds of millions of lives, and contributed to long-term economic growth. This “Green Revolution” showed it is possible to reduce hunger and poverty on a large scale but demonstrated the importance of focusing on the environment and the needs of small farmers.