|Microsoft Corp. chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates |
gestures during the (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
Bill Gates announced nearly $200 million in grants from his foundation.
He called on the trio of U.N. food agencies to improve coordination among themselves and to insist that the countries receiving food aid, agriculture technology, know-how and other assistance show what they have accomplished with periodic reports he likened to "report cards" or "score cards."
Among the projects receiving funding from Gates is one to monitor the effects of agricultural productivity on a region's population and environment. Other grants will build on existing projects, including the release of 34 new varieties of drought-tolerant maize and delivering vaccines to tens of millions of livestock.
Gates has embraced high-tech — and to some critics controversial — solutions for boosting agriculture, including supporting genetic modification in plant breeding as a way to fight starvation and malnutrition. In separate remarks to reporters, he suggested critics should ask farmers in poor countries who have adopted such techniques in plant breeding, "do you mind that it was created in a laboratory?"
Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, said his country is striving to rebuild its economy with coffee and tea production, which are significant sources of foreign exchange. Nearly two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. But in the past five years progress has been made, Kagame said, noting that the country’s gross domestic product has grown at an average of 8 per cent.
Kagame urged the international community to “be bold and try what has not been done before. We must learn from what has worked and adapt these models to suit smallholder farmers. The reality in most developing countries is that smallholder agriculture remains the source of livelihood and food supply. Every farmer counts.”