for the world’s poorest farmers, life is a high-wire act
Bill Gates has just published a new entry on his blog, The Gates Notes, and it is a very interesting one. It’s basically a reminder that for millions of people around the world, the weather isn’t just something that can mildly annoy them; it can be a question of life of death for them and their families. Subsistence farming means that when harvests fail, people die, simple as that. And if there’s any justice in the world, those who are well-fed and living relatively comfortable lives need to help those who are barely hanging on. That’s why I have lots of respect for people like Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett. They made tens of billions, but rather than escape to a private island and live a life of passive luxury, they are donating their whole fortunes and energies to helping the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth (along with many others who have signed the Giving Pledge).
Gates Notes/Screen capture
Back to those who are on the front-lines of climate change: Gates points out that even if we were to kick our fossil fuel habit this week, the greenhouse gases that have already been pumped into the atmosphere would still have a huge impact, and we need to find ways to help the most vulnerable among us better cope with the climate weirdness.
Here’s the good news. Many of the tools they’ll need to adapt are quite basic—things that they need anyway to grow more food and earn more income: access to financing, better seeds, fertilizer, training and markets where they can sell what they grow.
Other tools are new and tailored to the demands of a changing climate. The Gates Foundation and its partners have worked together to develop new varieties of seeds that grow even during times of drought or flooding. The rice farmers I met in Bihar, for instance, are now growing a new variety of flood-tolerant rice—nicknamed “scuba” rice—that can survive two weeks underwater. If shifts in the weather pattern bring more flooding to their region, they are already prepared for it. Other rice varieties are being developed that can withstand drought, heat, cold, and soil problems like high salt contamination. (source)
Many of these things are taken for granted by farmers in the rich countries, but in the poorest places, they can totally transform lives and increase food production by 2x or even 3x. Because of these advances and the efforts to make these tools and techniques available to those who need it, Gates has made the bet that Africa will be able to feed itself in the next 15 years, even with the risks of climate change. Let’s hope he’s right, because that would mean that the lives of tens and hundreds of millions of people has improved significantly.
Here’s a short video that Gates has published along with his piece:
Via Gates Notes