May 09, 2012
"I’ve made many trips to Africa, but my recent visit to Ethiopia was definitely one of the most exciting. With effective governance and coordinated support from our foundation and other donors, the advances I saw in health and agriculture may be the key to unleashing Ethiopia’s potential and that of other African countries."
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and has faced enormous challenges feeding its people and providing critical health services to mothers and their children. Yet, I returned from a recent visit excited about advances the country is making in agriculture and health.
If these innovations—which are a top priority for our foundation—succeed, they can be replicated in other African countries that also face big challenges in health and agriculture.
One factor in Ethiopia’s progress is Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his leadership team, who have played a key role in reinventing the country’s agricultural and health systems. Making changes to either would be a big challenge in any country, so it’s even more impressive in Ethiopia, which has the second largest population of any country in Africa but a limited economic infrastructure.
Around 85 percent of the country’s population survives by growing crops on small plots of less than five acres. But frequent droughts and soils that have been depleted of nutrients often led to low crop yields and considerable food insecurity. More than half of the country’s population of 83 million is malnourished and more than 5 million households receive food aid each year.
Our foundation has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the county’s new Agricultural Transformation Agency, and other partners to help farmers plant higher-yielding, drought-tolerant seeds, improve soil health and fertility, and get higher prices for their crops by selling to global markets.
At the Melkassa Research Station, one of 13 government-run agricultural outposts, Dr. Markus Walsh, Sr. showed me a new, state-of-the-art technology called NIR spectroscopy that’s part of a digital revolution in agriculture. This portable device, which quickly and cheaply analyzes soil conditions, is a fantastic breakthrough that will help farmers everywhere. But it’s especially valuable in countries like Ethiopia, where farmers haven’t been able to afford laboratory tests but need to know how to amend soils to grow better crops. The spectroscopy is part of an even bigger agricultural digital information system that will provide a comprehensive and detailed map of soil properties across the country.
Source: The Bill Gates Notes Read More