by Dan Ruth
Today Bill Gates announced on the Gates Foundation blog that he is “draw[ing] attention to farming families in the developing world and the important role they play in cutting hunger and poverty.”
We know that smart investments in farming families help them become self-sufficient. We know that increasing productivity while preserving the environment leads to higher incomes and better lives over the long-term. But governments are not living up to their pledges to provide this kind of support to small farmers.
Solving hunger and poverty is both an urgent problem and long-term challenge. But what gives me hope is that we know that investments are working.
Investing in smallholder farmers is an issue that Lutheran World Relief has long believed in. For decades, LWR has been investing in farmers around the developing world, helping them along the agriculture value chain: improving crop quality, gaining access to credit, and increasing the income they get from the sale of their crops.
Over the past month, LWR staff has been meeting around the world in three regional meetings. Last week, in Bamako, Mali, staff got together to talk about the importance of supporting farmers. The bulk of African economies depend on agriculture. If we solve the key issues of agriculture, we would be able to have a greater impact on smallholder farmers. George Odhiambo, LWR’s Regional Representative East Africa, said, “The back of the African economy is smallholder farmers. The future is in their hands.”
Evariste Karangwa added, “The majority of smallholder farmers are women. Because of their lack of education and lack of access, their agriculture is incapable of meeting food needs. When women earn more money, that income is used for the whole family.”
We are thankful that Bill Gates is using his public voice to speak to the importance of agriculture and farmers around the world. You can add your creative voice, too! Join the Gates Foundation Challenge and use your creativity to show how investing in smallholder farmers around the world can make a huge difference!