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Bill Gates Accepts Hunger Award, Says Focus on Poor Farmers ‘More Important than Ever’ | Bill & Melinda gates Foundation

Previewing themes in his upcoming report to G20 leaders, Gates highlights innovations and partnerships as keys to development

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today accepted World Food Program USA’s George McGovern Leadership Award for his foundation’s efforts to help small farmers in the developing world overcome hunger and poverty. Gates said the famine in the Horn of Africa, rising food prices, and a growing population make it more important than ever to help poor farm families grow and sell more food.

At next week’s G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Gates will deliver a report outlining how innovations and partnerships in health and agriculture can help increase global stability and put the poorest countries and people on a long-term path to economic growth and equality.

“I’ll be taking a message to the G20 that we can’t turn our backs on the world’s poorest, even in these tough economic times,” Gates said. “Our current fiscal crisis shouldn’t force cuts in programs like agriculture that build self-sufficiency, pay huge returns, and advance stability and economic growth.”

In 2009 in the face of historically high food prices and increasing global hunger, the G20 committed $22 billion to food security. But to date only about half of these pledges have been disbursed or are on track to be disbursed.

Gates said the famine in the Horn of Africa should be a final wake up call for the international community.

“It’s unconscionable for a famine of this magnitude to be happening in 2011. The world has the knowledge, tools, and resources to help the world’s poorest overcome hunger and extreme poverty,” he said.

The region’s worst drought in 60 years has led to widespread crop failure and loss of livestock, threatening the livelihood of more than 13 million people and claiming the lives of nearly 30,000 children under the age of five.

“At a time of intense debate over budgets, we should remember that these kinds of investments not only save lives, improve livelihoods, and promote stabilitythey also save money in the long run,” Gates said. “These are long-term efforts that require long-term commitments.”

Gates spoke at the U.S. Department of State, where he and philanthropist Howard Buffett received the George McGovern Leadership Award. The award is presented to policymakers and other leaders for their efforts to end global hunger. Past recipients include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Dick Durbin, and long-distance runner Paul Tergat of Kenya. Vice President Joe Biden and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also delivered remarks at the event.

Gates and Buffett are the joint recipients for their leadership in establishing the Purchase for Progress (P4P) program at the World Food Program (WFP).

P4P is an innovative public-private partnership, helping small farmers in developing countries become suppliers for WFP’s large-scale food programs. The long-term goal of P4P is to help farmers connect to other markets and that’s already happening. In Zambia, Uganda and other countries, for example, small farmers who organized through P4P are selling their crops to private companies as well.

Gates cited other initiatives in agriculture that are yielding promising results:

  • New rice varieties in India that can “hold their breath” underwater have helped save farmers’ entire crops from being wiped out. In the next six years, it’s expected that 20 million farmers will be planting these and other stress-tolerant varieties in South Asia and Africa.
  • Drought-tolerant maize varieties currently benefit more than 2 million smallholder farmers in East Africa. By 2016, the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa program is expected to boost maize yields by as much as 30 percent, benefitting up to 40 million people in 13 Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • Africa accounts for approximately one-third of global rice imports, and demand is growing. To keep up with rising demand, rice production must increase by about 70 percent over the next two decades. In response to this need China recently launched the “Green Super Rice” partnership to help develop different types of rice for 12 poor countries in Africa and South Asia. These varieties will be able to adapt to stresses such as drought and pest outbreaks.
To date, the Gates Foundation has committed $1.8 billion to help millions of small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—most of whom are women—grow and sell more food as a way to reduce hunger and poverty. When small farmers are able to produce more while preserving the land’s fertility for future generations, they can improve their families’ nutrition and become self-sufficient for the long term. The foundation focuses on the needs of small farmers and on the crops and livestock that are most important to the rural poor.

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