ROME, ITALY — Improving agricultural data systems and boosting support to smallholder farmers in the fight against hunger emerged as key topics during discussions between Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva, at FAO headquarters on Feb. 23.
The philanthropist and digital technology icon met with the head of the specialized UN agency, discussing ways to improve FAO's data collection systems and to develop a public, multi-agency scorecard to better measure the progress of hunger reduction. They also talked about how to boost sustainable productivity and market opportunities for smallholder farmers, who make up the bulk of the world's poor.
Possible areas of cooperation include improving agricultural statistics, the use of communication and information technologies to benefit agriculture as a whole, and small-scale farmers in particular, in addition to supporting the development of a scorecard system.
During the meeting, Graziano da Silva presented Gates with a permanent building pass to FAO, in a symbolic gesture of FAO's commitment to working closer with the private sector and civil society.
Graziano da Silva highlighted the value of innovative partnerships and of increasing South-South Cooperation to support smallholder producers.
Emphasizing the foundation's commitment to supporting small-scale farming, Gates addressed the need to make sure the benefits of the digital revolution and scientific innovations reach poor farmers worldwide and are better used in gathering and analyzing data.
FAO has also long advocated the need for greater access to information, innovation and cooperation to reduce hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty through agriculture. In the meeting, the value of information technology to help small farmers obtain market information, link them to new and existing markets, and improve their productivity and business decision-making was also highlighted.
Before meeting at FAO, Gates discussed agriculture and sustainable poverty reduction during a question-and-answer session at the 35th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He said that the world had the opportunity and the obligation to imagine a different future.
"This future will begin with another revolution in agricultural productivity. Sustainable yield increases will lead to a better living for farm families; they will also make food more accessible and cheaper for the growing number of poor families living in cities. In short, more productive small farmers are the key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals on hunger and poverty. If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture," said Gates.