domingo, noviembre 30, 2014

GRAIN report: How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?

GRAIN | 04 November 2014 | Against the grain
Listening to farmers and addressing their specific needs. We talk to farmers about the crops they want to grow and eat, as well as the unique challenges they face. We partner with organizations that understand and are equipped to address these challenges, and we invest in research to identify relevant and affordable solutions that farmers want and will use.”
First guiding principle of the Gates Foundation's work on agriculture.1
At some point in June this year, the total amount given as grants to food and agriculture projects by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surpassed the US$3 billion mark. It marked quite a milestone. From nowhere on the agricultural scene less than a decade ago, the Gates Foundation has emerged as one of the world's major donors to agricultural research and development.
Bill Gates at Cornell University, trying to cross-pollinate wheat. (Photo: Cornell University)
Bill Gates at Cornell University, trying to cross-pollinate wheat. (Photo: Cornell University)
The Gates Foundation is arguably the biggest philanthropic venture ever. It currently holds a $40 billion endowment, made up mostly of contributions from Gates and his billionaire friend Warren Buffet. The foundation has over 1,200 staff, and has given over $30 billion in grants since its inception in 2000, $3.6 billion in 2013 alone.2 Most of the grants go to global health programmes and educational work in the US, traditionally the foundation's priority areas. But in 2006-2007, the foundation massively expanded its funding for agriculture, with the launch of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and a series of large grants to the international agricultural research system (CGIAR). In 2007, it spent over half a billion dollars on agricultural projects and has maintained funding at around this level. The vast majority of the foundation's agricultural grants focus on Africa.


We could find no evidence of any support from the Gates Foundation for programmes of research or technology development carried out by farmers or based on farmers' knowledge, despite the multitude of such initiatives that exist across the continent. (African farmers, after all, do continue to supply an estimated 90% of the seed used on the continent!) The foundation has consistently chosen to put its money into top down structures of knowledge generation and flow, where farmers' are mere recipients of the technologies developed in labs and sold to them by companies.

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