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Yesterday morning Bill Gates met with IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze and discussed common goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD.

Messrs Gates and Nwanze iteriated that poverty reduction in rural areas of developing countries – where most of the world’s poorest people live – and investment in agriculture as a key engine of economic growth are top priorities for their respective institutions.

Both the foundation and IFAD are working with partners to foster a new ‘green revolution’ in Africa through a number of initiatives. Along with other donors and partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports AGRA (the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), an Africa-based and African-led partnership to help millions of small farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. IFAD signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AGRA to work with small farmers in Africa.

Key areas for action to enable small farmers to break the cycle of hunger and poverty for both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD are:

  • In developing countries, women do most of the work on farms and agricultural development programs must address gender in order to most effectively reduce hunger and poverty.
  • Small farmers often need a range of services to fully realize their potential—from access to markets, better seeds and more fertile soil, to better farm management practices, storage and transport facilities and market information.
  • Technologies and innovations must be developed to meet the needs of the poorest people.
“I have noted what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does in agriculture, and there is quite a lot of convergence with IFAD,” Nwanze said during the meeting. “Your focus on smallholder farmers is one that IFAD shares. We are helping farmers improve their livelihood – from more productive agricultural practices to better processing and marketing – and making sure they have access to vital financial services”.

One area of common interest Nwanze discussed is research to find breakthrough technologies for smallholder agriculture and the institutional mechanisms required for its expansion. He said the potential of Nerica rice, a high-yielding, protein heavy strain, to improve food security has yet to be fully tapped in Africa.

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