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March 08, 2011

Gates Foundation in new support for smallholder agriculture

As food price rises threaten global food security once more, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it will donate $70 million to a new collaboration that will focus on agricultural research projects helping smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia.

The new project will help farmers overcome threats to food production such as crop diseases, pests, poor soils and unreliable weather, to increase crop yields and consequently farm incomes. Also taking part in the project is the UK Department for International Development (DfID) that will contribute $32 million over the next five years to the partnership.

The new partnership is a reaction to the escalating food prices around the world. World Bank data released in February showed higher food prices — mainly for wheat, corn, sugars and edible oils — have pushed 44 million more people in developing countries into extreme poverty since June 2011.

In this new project, technologies such as wheat disease research will be prioritized. Cornell University will be receiving $40 million to continue its work to develop wheat varieties that are resistant to emerging strains of stem rust disease, such as Ug99, which is destroying crops in East Africa.

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