By Taiwo Ajala
Smallholder farmers across the world would soon receive the help they need to address the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promised to support initiatives with a pledge of $1.4 billion.
The CEO of the Foundation, Mark Suzman said in Egypt at the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on Monday.
For many regions, climate change is a food and economic crisis without precedent. More than 2 billion people depend on smallholder farms for food and income, yet less than 2% of global climate finance is devoted to helping these farms adapt to climate change. Food and economic crises will last longer and become more severe as climate threats escalate and further threaten food security by limiting smallholder farmers’ yields and resilience.
“The effects of climate change have already been devastating, and every moment the world delays action, more people suffer, and the solutions become more complex and costly. Our commitment will help smallholder farmers adapt today and build resilience for the future. It is essential for this climate summit to produce bold commitments that address immediate and long-term needs. Leaders must listen to the voices of African farmers and governments to understand their priorities and respond with urgency,” Suzman said.
The foundation’s commitment will fund immediate action and long-term initiatives over four years to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia build resilience and food security. Funding will focus on spurring African-led innovation to build a pipeline of climate-smart agriculture projects, new applications of digital technologies, climate-smart innovations for smallholder livestock farming, and support for women smallholder farmers to capitalize on their untapped potential.
“Women in rural Africa are the backbone of their food systems, but they have never had equal access to the resources they need to reach their full potential or build resilience to looming climate threats. As the climate crisis accelerates, women’s vital role in their economies is too important to overlook. With the right financing and marketing support, women smallholder farmers could earn more in a day than they currently earn in a month, ultimately transforming these regional food systems and unlocking a healthier, more sustainable, and more prosperous future for families and communities across the continent,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To improve the livelihoods of rural women in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the foundation is deepening its ongoing partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The goal is to scale up initiatives that empower women farmers, support innovations at the nexus of gender and climate adaptation, and increase climate finance that gives rural women better access to the climate-smart resources they need to strengthen food systems.
To accelerate the development of new adaptation innovations, the foundation is continuing to work with a coalition of partners to double the budget for the CGIAR agriculture research system. The CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy initiative partners with African research institutes, local businesses, and farmer organizations. Together, they are using big data, analytics, and digital platforms to deliver insights that can boost incomes, food security, and ecosystem health in smallholder farming communities.
“The climate crisis is causing enormous harm every day as it jeopardizes entire regions of people and economies. More funding is necessary to ensure agricultural and technological innovations are widely available to vulnerable communities, helping them to adapt to climate change, save lives and increase economic growth,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Additional investments included in the commitment announced will support:
- The Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI) to quickly build a pipeline of climate-smart agriculture projects across 23 countries in Africa. Funding will provide targeted support for the technical capacity, planning, and project development required to implement programs.
- The development of new applications of digital technologies to ensure smallholder farmers can anticipate and respond to climate threats. This includes an innovative weather intelligence platform developed through a new partnership between the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and TomorrowNow, which provides climate-smart agriculture strategies to farmers in East Africa via text messages.
- African-led innovations to develop climate-smart options for improving livestock health and productivity while also reducing their climate footprint. This will be done in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC).