Agricultural Development Strategy



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A maize farmer in Tanzania whose crop yields have increased through the use of better seeds.


to reduce hunger and poverty for millions of farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by increasing agricultural productivity in a sustainable way.

The Challenge

Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are affected by severe hunger and poverty. Many are farmers who rely on small plots of land (about one to two acres) for their food and income.

Our goal is to help these farming families produce more food and increase their income, while preserving the land for future generations.

We focus on the crops and livestock that are most important to farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Helping women farmers is one of our top priorities because women do much of the agricultural work and their well-being affects the health, welfare, and education of their children.

Our Agricultural Development strategy, updated in 2011, is led by Pamela Anderson, director, and is part of the foundation’s Global Development Division.

From the 1960s to 1980s, the “Green Revolution” in Asia and Latin America—a sweeping effort to transform farming methods and improve staple crops such as maize, wheat, and rice—helped to double food production and saved hundreds of millions of lives.

Many governments and donors subsequently shifted their attention to other concerns, believing that the problem of inadequate food supply in the developing world had been solved. This was not the case in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, where some Green Revolution approaches were tried but failed.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years, population growth, rising incomes, dwindling natural resources, and a changing climate have caused food prices to rise and agricultural productivity has once again become strained.

Many of those affected are smallholder farmers. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people get their food and income by farming small plots of land about the size of a football field. Most of them barely get by—struggling with unproductive soil, plant diseases, pests, and drought. Their livestock are frequently weak or sick. Reliable markets for their products and good information about pricing are hard to come by, and government policies rarely serve their interests well.

These factors, in turn, put millions of families at risk for poverty and hunger as well as malnutrition—the world’s most serious health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality. At the same time, one consequence of the first Green Revolution—excessive fertilizer use leading to water pollution—underscores the importance of sustainability to safeguard both environmental and human health.