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Accelerating Climate-Smart Solutions for Smallholder Farmers: A Look at the Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a leading philanthropic organization that focuses on addressing some of the world's most pressing issues, including global health and development, education, and poverty. One of the foundation's key focus areas is supporting smallholder farmers in the face of climate change, and their investment portfolio and partnerships reflect this commitment.


Agricultural Strategy

The foundation's agricultural strategy is designed to empower smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, build resilience, and improve food security. To achieve this, the foundation forms strategic partnerships with a wide range of organizations, including governments, private sector organizations, and local communities. The general areas of agricultural support are:

  • Supporting public sector crop breeding programs in Africa and Asia

  • Investing in crop research

  • Supporting local and national efforts to develop food systems anchored by smallholder producers

  • Investing in African-led innovations to build a pipeline of climate-smart agriculture projects

  • Investing in digital technologies to help farmers anticipate and respond to climate threats

  • Supporting initiatives that empower women smallholder farmers

  • Investing in sustainable agriculture and resilience building

  • Supporting efforts to promote agriculture in key areas of Asia to develop diversified farming and food systems

  • Support for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to empower women farmers

  • Collaboration with CGIAR agriculture research system to double the budget for the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy initiative

  • Support for Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to quickly build a pipeline of climate-smart agriculture projects across 23 countries in Africa

  • Investment in crop diversity to ensure farmers have access to a wider menu of options for eating a healthy, sustainable diet

  • Investment in bold new efforts that could sustainably deliver dramatic improvements in agricultural production

One of the foundation's key focus areas is investing in African-led innovations that can help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change. This includes funding projects that use cutting-edge digital technologies, such as precision agriculture and remote sensing, to help farmers anticipate and respond to climate threats, as well as supporting African-led innovations that develop climate-smart options for improving livestock health and productivity.

Additionally, the foundation supports public-sector crop breeding programs in Africa and Asia, which have developed considerable insights into the needs and preferences of local farmers, processors, and consumers. Their goal is to accelerate breeding work that can provide new crop varieties with traits that are aligned with local growing conditions and farmer and consumer preferences.


The foundation also invests in crop research, to provide new advances that farmers can use to sustainably increase their productivity. The foundation funds crop science programs that work in close consultation with local farmers, so researchers can pursue targeted innovations that are likely to see widespread adoption.


Finally, the foundation supports local and national efforts to develop food systems anchored by smallholder producers that can sustainably deliver safe, affordable, and nutritious food year-round to low-income people. Building sustainable and resilient food systems that produce nutritious crops and livestock products requires a holistic approach that supports many different actors, including farmers, processors, traders, food companies, and retailers. Funding Commitments The foundation is committed to funding the CGIAR with at least $521 million between 2020-2024 to advance climate-smart innovations for smallholder farmers. These commitments were made at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019 and at COP26 in 2021. By the end of 2022, the foundation will have spent $304 million towards these commitments, with $217 million remaining (although it is expected to exceed this amount by the end of 2024). The foundation's 2022-2024 funding commitment to the CGIAR accounts for $268 million of the foundation's $1.4 billion climate commitment.

Partners

The foundation has a wide range of partners in the agriculture sector. Some notable partners include The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which received a $40 million grant in 2019, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), which received a $5 million grant in 2020. Download the list of agricultural grantees from 2022 below.


BMGFGrants 2022
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Grand Challenges

The foundation also has a Grand Challenges program, which focuses on finding innovative solutions to global development issues. The program's Agriculture for Nutrition and Health Challenge, for example, aims to improve the health and nutrition of at least 500 million people by 2030 through sustainable agriculture. The foundation also has a Grand Challenges Explorations program, which supports early-stage research on innovative ideas related to global development.


(See past and current grantees here)

In conclusion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a valuable funding partner for any organization that supports smallholder farmers in the face of climate change. Their agricultural strategy, funding commitments, partnerships, and grand challenges program align with a wide range of solutions. By aligning your organization's goals and strategies with the foundation's priorities, you can increase your chances of securing funding and scaling up your impact.

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