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Bill & Melinda Gates project transforms African farming

Bill & Melinda Gates project transforms African farming

Sep 10, 2014

According to a recent report by NewScientist.com Lucy Banda, a farmer in Mwambaso village in western Malawi, has increased her income 15-fold over the past three years by trebling her farm’s output.

Banda is one of 1.75 million African smallholder farmers, 40 per cent of them women, enrolled in a $180-million five-year programme run by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The organisation was set up in 2006 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

AGRA’s latest report says the scheme is achieving its goals: Flagship projects in Malawi and Tanzania have recruited 18,000 farmers each; and some 117,000 have signed up in Ghana. The report says that these farms’ yields have doubled, on average and the programme has been extended from these three countries to 18 countries.

Says Bashir Jama, who runs AGRA’s soil health programme: “We hope by 2015 to have reached 20 million smallholders.”

Besides the soil and other everyday farming issues faced by these farmers, AGRA aims to solve is lack of infrastructure in many of these regions. NewScientist.com says that African smallholders are often isolated, unable to get credit or find buyers for their produce, so AGRA is putting farmers in touch with everyone from financiers who offer microcredit to agents who buy produce for sale elsewhere. “We’re connecting [smallholders] to the entire business chain,” Jama says.

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