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Bill Gates calls for focus on raising farm level productivity to reduce poverty

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Artikkel 2012-1, NILF

Foto: Ellen Henrikke Aalerud

According to Financial Times, Bill Gates argued lately that the agriculture and food systems of the world is outdated and does not provide the help the small farmes need. Habtamu Alem Terefe comments on Bill Gates' statements.

Bill Gates offered some criticism on the United Nations (UN) food agencies which has been posted in The Financial Times on February 23, 2012. Bill Gates said that “The world’s agriculture and food system is now outdated and inefficient. Countries, food agencies and donors aren’t working together in a focused and coordinated way to provide the help small farmers’ need, when they need it.” The UN has three Rome- based agencies which are devoted to achieving household food security in developing countries: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP). Mr. Gates called for large scale reforms of these international food aid agencies. Bill Gates, who has donated roughly $2bn to household food security in the past decade and plans to give another $2bn in the next five years, urges FAO, IFAD and WFP, to set a goal for raising farm level productivity for their efforts to reduce poverty.

I think Mr. Gates has a point and it will be a good input to donor countries and UN agencies. Both environmental and structural problems are affecting household food security in developing countries especially in the Horn of Africa. Food shortages in developing countries have multi-dimensional sources so that in order to tackle current and possible future household food insecurity there is a need to adopt holistic and coordinated approach. Low agricultural productivity, drought, land degradation, conflict and political instability have exhausted household food security in developing countries.

The vast majority of poor households in developing countries get their food from farming small and fragile plots of land. Setting a goal for raising farm level productivity and preserve the land for future generations are the key to achieving 2015 Millennium Development Goal on global hunger and poverty. As Gates pointed out efforts in the past have been poorly coordinated, food insecure people have suffered and will continue to suffer unless the root causes of hunger are tackled in an efficient, sustainable and coordinating way.

According to Financial Times governance and hunger activists hope the appointment of José Graziano da Silva as director-general at the FAO would help to improve UN efforts to tackle household food insecurity in a coordinated and efficient way.


Written by Habtamu Aleem Terefe

23.02.2012, Financial Times, Gates attacks ‘outdated’ UN food agencies