February 12, 2013 | By Bill Gates and Carlos Slim Helú
Building on its success a half-century ago pioneering new varieties of wheat and maize that saved a billion people from starvation, Mexico is again at the forefront of advances in agricultural development to help poor countries become food self-sufficient.
Combining the latest breakthroughs in agricultural science and farming practices with digital technology, Mexico’s innovative efforts will enable even the poorest farmers to grow and sell more crops.
Against the dramatic realities of climate change, a growing global population, rising food prices, and a shrinking agricultural land base, Mexico’s leadership in agricultural innovation is critically important—especially to the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa where hundreds of millions of people face severe hunger and poverty.
At the center of these efforts is Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT), where Mexican and international researchers have worked for decades to develop higher-yielding, more resilient seeds for maize and wheat, and to introduce better agricultural practices that help farmers be more productive. One of CIMMYT’s greatest strength is its partnership approach. In addition to bringing together the world’s leading scientists and agricultural experts, CIMMYT has also involved farmer associations, the private sector, governments, international organizations, and NGOs in developing effective solutions to meet the needs of poor farmers worldwide.
This week, CIMMYT will be celebrating the completion of new agricultural research and training facilities made possible through the financial support of Fundación Carlos Slim. These state-of-the-art labs and greenhouses will ensure CIMMYT’s continued leadership developing high-yielding maize and wheat varieties equipped to tolerate the stresses of climate change. Expanded training facilities will enhance CIMMYT’s ability to develop and deliver resource-conserving farming practices and advance digital technologies that enable poor farming families to increase their productivity and income.
Helping poor farming families increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term. This has been proven in Mexico, India, Pakistan, Brazil, China, and many other countries over the last half century.
The unique partnership between CIMMYT, the government, and our foundations ensures that Mexico will continue to lead in agricultural development—first in Mexico and then the rest of the world.
The new infrastructure funded through Fundación Carlos Slim will enable CIMMYT to carry out cutting-edge agricultural science using the latest digital innovations, and to accelerate the use of mobile technology to provide farmers everywhere with vital information about weather, prices, and new techniques to improve their productivity. The Mexican government’s MasAgro initiative is helping farmers adopt more sustainable and profitable farming practices to increase food production. As these agricultural advances achieve scale in Mexico, the Gates Foundation will ensure that they reach maize and wheat farmers in Africa and South Asia, along with the resources needed to improve productivity.
Fifty years ago, Mexico’s leadership in agricultural innovation helped lift hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and Asia from hunger and poverty. More recently the UN’s Millennium Development Goals have reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by half, since 1990.
The world is counting on Mexico to continue leading the way in agricultural research and sustainable farming practices to ensure global food security. Meanwhile, the global community must do its part by aligning around a new set of goals –including an agricultural productivity target – and achieving measurable outcomes that improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.