Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bill Gates Exciting Innovations in Agriculture and Health

I’ve made many trips to Africa, but my recent visit to Ethiopia was definitely one of the most exciting. With effective governance and coordinated support from our foundation and other donors, the advances I saw in health and agriculture may be the key to unleashing Ethiopia’s potential and that of other African countries.
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and has faced enormous challenges feeding its people and providing critical health services to mothers and their children. Yet, I returned from a recent visit excited about advances the country is making in agriculture and health.
If these innovations—which are a top priority for our foundation—succeed, they can be replicated in other African countries that also face big challenges in health and agriculture.
One factor in Ethiopia’s progress is Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his leadership team, who have played a key role in reinventing the country’s agricultural and health systems. Making changes to either would be a big challenge in any country, so it’s even more impressive in Ethiopia, which has the second largest population of any country in Africa but a limited economic infrastructure.
Around 85 percent of the country’s population survives by growing crops on small plots of less than five acres. But frequent droughts and soils that have been depleted of nutrients often led to low crop yields and considerable food insecurity. More than half of the country’s population of 83 million is malnourished and more than 5 million households receive food aid each year.
Our foundation has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the county’s new Agricultural Transformation Agency, and other partners to help farmers plant higher-yielding, drought-tolerant seeds, improve soil health and fertility, and get higher prices for their crops by selling to global markets.
At the Melkassa Research Station, one of 13 government-run agricultural outposts, Dr. Markus Walsh, Sr. showed me a new, state-of-the-art technology called NIR spectroscopy that’s part of a digital revolution in agriculture. This portable device, which quickly and cheaply analyzes soil conditions, is a fantastic breakthrough that will help farmers everywhere. But it’s especially valuable in countries like Ethiopia, where farmers haven’t been able to afford laboratory tests but need to know how to amend soils to grow better crops. The spectroscopy is part of an even bigger agricultural digital information system that will provide a comprehensive and detailed map of soil properties across the country.
I also met with a number of farmers to talk about new varieties of sorghum (a grain) and beans they are growing. Beans are very important because they provide protein and people need a combination of protein and grain to have a reasonable diet.
Helping small farmers sell their crops in world markets is another important part of the work we’re supporting in Ethiopia. It’s currently a big challenge because poor farmers may not be growing the right crops for world markets and they often lack the roads, trucks, and other infrastructure necessary to enable exports. And getting foreign investors to help build this “value chain” can be difficult. But I visited one agricultural processing facility called ACOS, that is processing and shipping a variety of beans to European markets. It is jointly owned by an Italian company and Ethiopian investors and is a great example of private investment in developing countries.
What Ethiopia is doing in health is really a model system because it reaches everyone in the country. I visited the Germana Gale Health Post, where I talked to several of the more than 30,000 health extension workers who have been trained in recent years to deliver basic health education, prevention, and treatment. Most of the health workers are women, and those I met were energetic and well-trained.
These kinds of primary health services—giving vaccines, educating women about family health, and promoting hygiene and environmental sanitation—is the foundation for building good health systems in poor countries. Ethiopia’s health system also includes district health centers like the Dalocha Health Center I visited. There, they do a little bit of surgery and have more expertise and a wider variety of drugs. There are also primary hospitals that focus on higher level treatment and some emergency surgery, and general hospitals that deal with serious emergencies and high-risk and specialized care.
Ethiopia still faces some big problems. But the people I met and what I saw re-energized me and increased my optimism that the big investments we and other donors are making in health and agriculture will pay off for the people of Ethiopia and can serve as model activities in other African countries. Improving agricultural productivity and the quality of life through better health services is the key to unleashing the potential of Ethiopia and other poor countries and getting them on the road to self-sufficiency.

Prof. Muse Tegegne
This is a great beginning to our people. Dear, I can see hope in the eyes of my people happy at your presence. It takes me back the day of Point Four an American cooperation for development in Ethiopia in 1960’s.  
Ethiopians have been victim of famine drought, traditional method of farming, and worst of all land grabbing today. Your personality and humanitarian engagement in agricultural development areas will lead to self reliance in many other African countries.  
Today the very people you have visited are menaced to become workers in their own ancestral land by the developers of intensive agro business. Ethiopian regime has made more than 4 million hectares fertile land available for international land grabbers. The regime has already sold over 300,000 hectares. They say it is “unutilized land” but it is a nomadic land.  
Ethiopia has three kind of land and three mode of agro nomadic production. Firstly the highlanders you visited their main production is cereal and pulses leguminous. The second the rift valley mainly root plants like false Banana (Kocho). The last is the periphery land mainly nomadic cattle headmen mode of production.  
Today the land of the third mode is sold as a free unused land. And these systematic land grapping will continue up unto the highland in the coming years. 
I advise you to enlarge your model of development to the three areas as a token of hope of for the rest of African farmers. The Ethiopian three land escape is the representative of the rest of African terrain where it can be transposed easily as a prototype. At the same time it will give a whole round experience on the field and your model could be a shield for our people in this day of hardship… 
Prof. Muse Tegegne
Today, 09:58:39
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Elias Kifle
Dear Bill Gates, the places you visited and the individuals you spoke with have been carefully selected by the ruling junta led by genocidal dictator Meles Zenawi who pays $50,000 per month to a PR firm in Washington DC named DLA Piper to polish his image. After 20 years of rule by Meles Zenawi and his ethnic-apartheid regime, Ethiopia remains among the top ten countries in poverty, human rights violations, corruption, child malnutrition, lack of press freedom, regime-sanction human trafficking, etc. My online journal, and many other media have been banned in Ethiopia, and 100s of Ethiopian journalists and human rights advocates have been forced into exile. Private TV and radio stations are not allowed. I can go on listing the crimes of Meles Zenawi for several hours. While I admire your humanitarian works, in Ethiopia's case you are unknowingly helping the brutal despot by painting a rosy picture of him and his regime. Please try to get in touch with any of the well-known international human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Int'l, Committee to Protect Journalists and others if you want to really find out what is going on in Ethiopia. Thank you, Elias Kifle (
Yesterday, 20:23:43
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Elias Kifle
Leon v. Rijckevorsel
Ethiopia has the aim to grow within five years from a low-income country to a midlle-income country. This realy is an Ethiopian Renaissance!  
It's time to invest in Africa!  
Yesterday, 10:57:59
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J T Paul
Interesting information. Good to see this philanthropic work.
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