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Blog Post

Innovation For Farmers

  • Christina Owen, Apr 13, 2012

When people in countries like the United States think about agriculture, they often envision large fields, full of tall wheat or corn plants, waving in the wind. This image of bountiful harvest is even part of the US national anthem... every schoolchild in America sings of "amber waves of grain".

Yet when we look at agriculture globally, this vision is far from universal. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, most farmers have small land holdings on which they grow several crop plants together. Their yields can vary greatly from year to year and the pressures of pests and diseases are a constant threat that at times, and can completely decimate a farmer's crop. For many of these smallholder farmers, tall, healthy plants that wave in the wind are only a dream.

These are the farmers we seek to help. It's a massive challenge but one that is so important we simply cannot fail. Lives are at stake. That's why the foundation has invested over $2 billion to helping poor farm families boost their productivity in a sustainable way. If we're going to help feed the 1 billion hungry people in this world, we have to get moving, get creative, and think outside the box. We have to be willing to try new approaches and take advantage of promising opportunities.

This is exactly what we're trying to do with our Grand Challenges Explorations topic, Protect Crop Plants from Biotic Stresses, From Field to Market. We're looking for new innovations that can help smallholder farmers in developing countries protect their crops from the serious pests and diseases they face. Innovation is key and the time is ripe for scientists and inventors to take advantage of new advancements in genomics, materials science, and other areas to develop new and effective solutions for farmers around the globe.

Grand Challenges Explorations flings the door open wide for anyone, anywhere to help. All you need is a great idea. For Norman Borlaug, it was new dwarf wheat varieties, an idea that lead to a product that lead to millions of people lifting themselves out of poverty. We can help today's poor farmers do the same. So what's your great idea?

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.
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