Gates on agricultural productivity

I'll quote at length from Bill Gates, speaking at the World Food Prize symposium, on agriculture and the importance of smallholder agricultural productivity:
The world can make huge strides in reducing hunger and poverty by helping the world's poorest farmers become more productive, Microsoft Inc. co-founder Bill Gates said Thursday.

Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke at the World Food Prize symposium, where he said more needs to be done to help small-holder farmers in Africa increase production and get their crops to market.
"Helping the poorest small-holder farmers grow more crops and get them to market is the world's single most powerful lever for reducing hunger and poverty," Gates said during his speech in Des Moines.

He said the global effort to help small farmers is being threatened by a divide between those who want to increase productivity and those who promote sustainability.
"It's a false choice," he said. "It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers.

"We certainly need both productivity and sustainability and there is no reason we can't have both," he said.

Gates said the environment can benefit from increased productivity. "When productivity is too low, people start farming on grazing land, cutting down forests, using any new acreage they can," he said. "When productivity is high, people can farm on less land."

"If we can make small-holder farming more productive and more profitable, we can have a massive impact on hunger and nutrition and poverty," Gates said.
This excites me on multiple levels. It signals and publicizes a shift toward a more holistic view of agriculture, which is a great thing. It signals that the Gates Foundation is shifting its considerable weight toward this more holistic view, and where Gates goes, others often follow. And finally, I personally will soon begin some work in the area of smallholder agricultural productivity, and it’s of course exciting and gratifying to see and as intelligent and influential a figure as Bill Gates attesting to its importance.

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