8 November 2011 | EN
Pingali: 'It's a much more proactive, bottom-up approach to grant-making'
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world's largest donors to international agricultural research for development, has announced tighter priorities for its funding for Africa and South Asia, concentrating on key target countries and crops.
In Africa the focus will be on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. These countries will benefit from significant investment "to translate the movement [of research and development (R&D)] from the lab to farmers' fields," said Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of the foundation's Agriculture Development Division.
In India work will focus on the two poorest states, Bihar and Orissa, and there will be a separate programme in Bangladesh.
"This doesn't mean that we don't care about other countries but it certainly means that these are the areas where we would see significant investments from our side and see spill-over benefits to other countries," Pingali told a seminar on the foundation's agricultural policies portfolio at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the United States, last week (2 November).
Pingali said the country focus was part of a two-pronged approach, with the second prong concentrating on international research, policy and advocacy, and stepping up global funding for improvements in collecting and analysing data on agricultural production and improvements.
Funding for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme and some other agencies will also be strengthened.
The Gates Foundation's US$1.7 billion of agriculture research funding until 2010 had been geared towards smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. But Pingali said there was a need to be more targeted. In particular, he said, the foundation wants to understand the entire value chain "from molecule to mouth" and work out what are the necessary investments.
Within the selected countries, work on R&D, agriculture policy, and access to markets will be more closely interlinked on a crop by crop basis, he said. Grants made to these countries will be based not just on technological interventions to reduce productivity gaps in certain crops but also the infrastructures, institutional reforms and policy changes required to improve productivity.
"It's a much more proactive, bottom-up approach to grant-making," Pingali said.
Pingali said the foundation would be putting more money into country policy work, particularly in the target countries to improve agricultural productivity; in capacity-building, such as analytical capacity and overall capacity to manage and run large scale agricultural transformation; and in analysis and data, such as better metrics to analyse environmental consequences and the connection between agriculture and nutrition in poor communities and better post-harvest data.
But he stressed that funding would be based on the countries' own priorities and plans.
Pingali said the foundation had needed to 'recalibrate' its funding for agricultural research because of the entry of many new donors and players into the sector in the wake of the world food crisis in 2008.
"We also felt that countries themselves are beginning to have much sharper visions of what they wanted to see in their agriculture sectors and we wanted to make sure that our work complements the visions of the countries and supports their efforts."
But he admitted that many African countries had been excluded "because of governance issues".
"Governance did come into it as a criteria, initially at least, in excluding certain countries," he said. And some middle-income countries had been included as "you could be in middle income country status and still have enormously high levels of poverty".
He added that middle-income countries were important because of "spill-over benefits to other countries, which you would not be able to get if you targeted only the least developed and the low-income countries".
Pratap Shrestha ( Nepal )
9 November 2011
India is richest country in South Asia. Wonder why India needs the Foundation's money when there is dire need for such funds in other countries of the region. What made the Foundation put India in their priority list?
kihire ( Uganda )
10 November 2011
This is welcome news as it targets the instiutional framework that support the growth and development of viable and strong vertical and horizontal linkages in the countries' value chains. I like the new vision.
Mondal ( International Rice Research Institute | Bangladesh )
14 November 2011
Many many thanks to Dr. Prabhu Pingali to find out the proper places to funding. There are big difference between the economic condition of farmers of Punjab and Behar in India. The farmers are very poor in Behar. The economic condition and food and nutrition insecurity in Bangladesh was rightly identified for funding.
greeney ( New Zealand )
14 November 2011
Once again, measure everything, fix nothing, but "give us money". You will never fix the problems of rainfed farmers until you control runoff, the only source of water for their crops. The Vetiver System is the only successful system giving hope to subsistence farmers throughout the tropics. We have been very successful in Ethiopia mentioned in your article. Fertilisers, new crop varieties in fact all modern crop inputs are useless where you are losing 60% of your rainfall as runoff, washing these inputs down the drainage network. In all the conferences or recent writings on rainfed farming you rarely see the word "runoff' mentioned.
Hartmann ( United States of America )
14 November 2011
Sounds like a good move. Focusing on fewer countries, especially the large ones (by population), is a very productive strategy. The neighboring countries are not excluded from adopting the technologies, nor are countries with similar ecologies.
Basing selected programs on national priorities helps ensure relevance. Though this has not been an issue. National program priorities in agriculture are normally very broad and it would be hard to do something that is not within such priorities.
Two areas needing a watchful eye would be the use of FAO and the dependence on policies. FAO, if used to house and make available global data or to call highlevel summits on food, will perform well. But at country level FAO’s record is poor.
In Africa, the dependence on policy can be tricky. Policy instruments work beautifully and are indeed essential in countries where institutions are strong. But where they are weak policies they end up being tools of the powers at that time. Policies can be executed, ignored, or even reversed at the whim of a ministry. Such uncertainty comes at great cost to the little guys who invested based on its original announcement.
Nalini Mallikarjuna ( India )
15 November 2011
Funds should be available for those agricultural research institutions/countries which generate international public goods which will be available for all the stakeholders in Asia and Africa
anu ( India )
15 November 2011
Poor countries means unsuspecting people or politicians who can be bought. The Gates Foundation has invested heavily in GM foods and hopes to make a lot of money. Large american corporations controlling the genetic pool of country means that we could in a few years be heavily dependent on them for seeds and ultimately the food we eat or the products we produce eg. cotton. We seriously need to wake up.
marianne heselmans impactreporters ( Netherlands )
15 November 2011
John Ssemakalu, Uganda ( United Nations World Food Programme | Uganda )
16 November 2011
Lomudi ( United States of America )
17 November 2011
The new independent nation of South Sudan deserves more attention than, for instance, Uganda or Tanzania, which produce sufficient food for their populations and for export. In South Sudan, the food security situation is dire straights due to the protracted war and frequent droughts. The land is fertile and capable of producing food for both domestic consumption and export. What is missing is increased productivity, value addition and proper marketing channels for its agricultural products. Funding research in these areas should be a priority that will go a long way in making South Sudan not only self-sufficient, but a surplus producer and net exporter as well. In addition, any research funds will strengthen South Sudan's neglected universities, research institutions, infrastructure and help put in place agricultural policy frameworks, thus improving the overall livelihoods of resource-poor small-scale farmers, their nutritional status and health.
KBN Rayana ( India )
18 November 2011
India is really rich country, but money will be either in gold or in stock market. Hence no investment in agriculture, and or its research. Everyone think that agriculture is easy, becasue still 705 public of India earns their penny from that industry, wherein all forefothers are mostly from agric. either direct farmer or indirect farmer.
second thing gates funding or policy ? What is it I am not sure or it. However we have proved as and paper/s published in 2000 itself, and told to the world and breaking heads of multinational banks in India. We / I did a research on world/global transitional countries economy including india for first decade and told or rather to say innovated it. Hence every one note how to frame further strengthening on it. As U know the RBI or economic institutions and news papers will quote as food inflation rather quoting as inflation. Without food nothing.......
the inflation derives from there where from food generates...i.e., agriculture..its correspondance lively hood.
Hence gates foundation should keep a vision and develop such as model village develepment and focus it.
KBN Rayana, DG., IAMMA, Hyd/india, at present in US chafter. call 2025036689. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Mbaka ( Private Veterinary Health Practictioner | Kenya )
20 November 2011
The vision is good and I applaud it. However, having been in the "frontline" stage in the ASAL as well as the high potential areas of Kenya since 1985 when I graduated from University, I realize that there is plenty of potential in the existing seed, both in livestock and crops that could be better exploited, sustainably. The problem is that extensionists keep pushing "new as better", without focusing on maximizing on what is here, cheaper to handle and known by the local farmers. It is like urging poor rural farmers to abandon a bicycle to adopt a motorcycle, and then you spend money to train them on how to ride it, give them some "grant" to fuel it for a while, then leave them to generate their own fuel. It is faster and more efficient alright, but is it really sustainable? Soon they will have to park it and walk. Why an exotic or cross-bred cow when the indigenous cow is hardly well fed and managed on what is available for it to do better? Why hybrid maize when the indigenous hardy maize is hardly taken good care of in order for it to give its best? Why is so much money spent on research to improve crops and livestock, instead of building the capacity of farmers' to maximize on what they already have that is suited to their knowledge, circumstances and environment? Why spend a philanthropist's funds to give a poor food insecure peasant farmer a dairy goat [requiring specialized handling and feeding] instead of an extra indigenous goat that will produce less but reliable milk? Sorry if I sound pessimistic, but over the years, I have seen plenty of resources from kind hearted people get to waste out here. Many projects have ended up a motorcycle parked aside to rot; and yet, the optimistic excited farmers already had abandoned their bicycle to rot, or even sold it off. So now, they are down to walking, unable to replace the bicycle they once owned because they lost all their money on fuel and maintenance of the motorcycle!
Mbaka ( Private Veterinary Health Practictioner | Kenya )
20 November 2011
I wish more countries in Africa were included, e.g. the "new" Nations like Rwanda, Burundi & South Sudan. Kenya has tremendous resources regarding R&D in agriculture, but a poorly developed infrastructure to translate the findings into application. Perhaps it could be considered for the B&G Foundation fund, with an emphasis on conversion of "Research Into Development", both for Kenya and the region where there are similarities in environmental and socio-cultural conditions.
Lakshmi P. Subedi ( IAAS, Tribhuvan University | Nepal )
23 November 2011
I would like to request Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to include Nepal also in their supporting country list. I have developed a technique of 3 crops of rice in Terai where 2 used to grow earlier. I have included one winter rice (November to April). The wetlands comprise a net 5% of land in Nepal. I am planning to use robotic (drone type) multipurpose tractor for rice cultivation and harvesting in these unapproachable terrains or wastelands. If the Foundation is willing to fund we will explore the collaboration possibility from AAAS (Amer Assoc for Adv of Sc). I am planning to attend this 1-20 Feb meeting in Vancouver, Canada.
C.V. Abraham ( Tanzania (United Republic of) )
25 November 2011
Agricultural potential, Tanzania needs to tap more natural resources for which more funds are required for basic crop management practices. Most of the rural farmers do their crop management with single hand hoe. Though most of the farmers have below one hactor, still they require minimum implements for their enhancement of their produces. We talk more of advanced agricultural technology which surely require huge funds. If the foundation can provide the Agricultural Extention personals to rural areas, who can demonstrate crop cultural practices for more yields. CV. Abraham, Tanzania
Nada K. ( Auburn University | United States of America )
30 November 2011
Whether projects you support are going to be in Africa, India or Bangladesh it doesn’t matter, but the focus has to be on SUSTAINABILITY and that should be the KEY: income, employment, education and livelihood to poor rural folks. Perhaps the production of rural food enterprises such as crops, vegetables and fruits might take priority. However, IMH, incorporating a mixed crop-animal husbandry system into your projects should be more productive, sustainable and efficient way to improve the livelihood of those farmers while maintaining the “Health” of our people and our soil.
As we know, this month, the world population hit 7 billion people and by 2050, it is estimated that the world’s population will approach 9 billion people. The challenge that we are faced with is to double food production in the next 40 years to meet the needs of a growing world population. As the overall population grows, the world’s middle class will triple in the next 40 years, which will increase demand for animal proteins. Demand for food is currently growing at about two percent per year, which is outpacing gains in productivity. In order to meet the above demand, food production and food security, we need to implement technological breakthroughs that comes out of research and education related to systems agriculture while holding healthy stewardship of the land. The most pressing need is to educate consumers about the necessity of modern agricultural practices in maintaining food security. We have to set goals, strive for consistency and have faith in the system and never give up!
I'm willing to assist in any projects that involve livestock production, particularly, the small ruminants.
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