<p><span class="xn-person">Bill Gates</span> calls agriculture investments "incredibly effective" way to reduce hunger and poverty</p>
<p>WASHINGTON, <span class="xn-chron">April 22</span> /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- <span class="xn-person">Bill Gates</span>, co-chair of the Bill & <span class="xn-person">Melinda Gates</span> Foundation, joined representatives of the governments of the <span class="xn-location">United States</span>, <span class="xn-location">Canada</span>, <span class="xn-location">Spain</span>, and <span class="xn-location">South Korea</span> at the U.S. Department of the Treasury today to launch a global trust fund to help the world's poorest farmers grow more and earn more so they can lift themselves -- and their countries -- out of hunger and poverty.</p>
<p>Initial contributions to the fund total nearly <span class="xn-money">$900 million</span>, including a <span class="xn-money">$30 million</span> commitment from the foundation. Proposed by the G20 last year after the economic crisis and rising food prices pushed the number of hungry people to 1 billion, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program is a concrete step to translate <span class="xn-money">$22 billion</span> in food security pledges into action.</p>
<p>"Investing in small farmers is an incredibly effective way to combat hunger and extreme poverty -- history has proved it many times," said Gates, whose foundation has committed <span class="xn-money">$1.5 billion</span> to date to agricultural development. "The launch of this fund is an important step forward, but only a first step. Other countries meeting at the European, G8 and G20 summits in June, and at the U.N. Summit in September should join the four founding partners and make good on their pledges. If we all sustain focus until the job is done, hundreds of millions of people will lead better lives."</p>
<p>According to the World Bank, about three-quarters of the 1 billion people who live in extreme poverty depend on agriculture for a living. Even if they manage to grow a surplus, they often lack a reliable market in which to sell it. Despite these challenges, there are reasons for optimism in the fight against hunger.</p>
<p>"This renewed investment in agricultural development is excellent news for our small farmers, who face degraded soil, pests, disease, and a changing climate as they struggle to feed their families and overcome poverty," said Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general and current chair of the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in <span class="xn-location">Africa</span> (AGRA). "The multi-donor trust fund is a smart and efficient way to harmonize donor support with country-led efforts that are already showing impressive results. With solid and sustained investments in agriculture and strong partnerships across sectors, we can build on this progress and create a more just and food-secure world."</p>
<p>In a recent Gallup survey in 18 countries in sub-Saharan <span class="xn-location">Africa</span>, residents listed agriculture and jobs as the most important issues their governments should address in the next year. Small farmers need a comprehensive, long-term approach that is sustainable for the economy and the environment. That means improved seeds, tools and training, access to markets where they can sell their surplus, and better policies to support their efforts. Hosted by the World Bank, the trust fund will focus on countries with strong national plans that are already using their own resources on these kinds of effective interventions.</p>
<p>African countries are already taking the lead. In 2004, African heads of state pledged 10 percent of their national budgets to achieve 6 percent annual growth in agriculture. In 2008, 20 African countries achieved the 6 percent target. In <span class="xn-location">Rwanda</span>, investment in agriculture rose by 30 percent from 2007 to 2009. In 2008, the country reported that its agricultural production increased 15 percent.</p>
<p>The foundation's investments and partnerships in <span class="xn-location">Africa</span> and South Asia are already yielding promising results:</p>
-- The African-led organization AGRA and its partners have released more
than 100 new varieties of improved seeds across the continent,
thousands of local agro-dealers, and trained more than 280,000
-- In India, low-cost treadle pumps have provided 100,000 farmers with
microirrigation technologies that have helped double their incomes.
-- New rice varieties that withstand flooding have helped farmers in
flood-prone areas of India avoid losing their entire crops. The
has exceeded production targets fivefold due to high demand from
farmers and strong government support, especially in India.
-- Farmers in East Africa using new varieties of maize that produce
greater yields in drought conditions produced up to 30 percent more
maize than those without the improved seeds.
-- The World Food Programme has contracted to purchase nearly 50,000
metric tons of food from small farmers in the same countries where the
food will be eaten, instead of buying it from big traders or shipping
it from other countries.
<p>"The world knows what works," said Gates. "I am convinced that with a combination of great partnerships and shared commitment, we can help the world's small farmers overcome hunger and extreme poverty."</p>
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
<p>Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & <span class="xn-person">Melinda Gates</span> Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the <span class="xn-location">United States</span>, it seeks to ensure that all people -- especially those with the fewest resources -- have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in <span class="xn-location">Seattle</span>, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO <span class="xn-person">Jeff Raikes</span> and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and <span class="xn-person">Melinda Gates</span> and <span class="xn-person">Warren Buffett</span>. Learn more at <a href="http://www.gatesfoundation.org">www.gatesfoundation.org</a> or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.</p>
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For further information: For further information: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, +1-206-709-3400, firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: http://www.gatesfoundation.org