•In their respective essays, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates call for new approaches to achieving gender equality and food security.
•In her essay, French Gates cites data that shows the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108—three generations later than previously projected.
In 2008, a team of crop scientists in Kenya promised what sounded like a long shot, but well worth trying.
They promised to develop maize varieties that would not only tolerate moderate drought but also provide 20 to 35 per cent more grain yield than currently available commercial hybrids.
The outcome was astounding. In 2013, when the researchers compared plots of their new maize variety, which they called “DroughtTEGO,” with the old one, they saw the DroughtTEGO farms were producing an average of 66 per cent more grain per acre.
“That harvest is enough to feed a family of six for an entire year,” says philanthropist Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the project.
This maize variety has now been adopted in several African countries. Bill Gates, in this year’s Goalkeepers Report, extols it as an example of the "climate-smart” crops that the world needs in the face of climate change.
The goal should not simply be giving more food aid. It should be to ensure no aid is needed in the first place"Bill Gates
The success of DroughtTego has been immense, with farmers who plant it now able to sell the surplus and send children to school or build new homes.
“Innovations like DroughtTego maize and short-duration rice give me a lot of hope that agricultural productivity can still increase despite the changing climate. But I wish these new seeds would be adopted more quickly. Investment in agricultural R&D is still much too small,” Gates writes.
The annual Goalkeepers Report is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s campaign to accelerate progress toward the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).
The Foundation released its sixth Goalkeepers Report on Tuesday, noting that nearly every indicator of the SDGs is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030.
However, the report remains optimistic. It lists innovations such as DroughtTego as evidence there are still opportunities to accelerate progress toward ending poverty, fighting inequality, and reducing the impacts of climate change.
Coauthored by foundation co-chairs Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, this year’s report, “The Future of Progress,” notes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars in Ukraine and Yemen, ongoing climate and food crises, and macro-economic headwinds on global ambitions to improve and save millions of lives by 2030.
In their respective essays, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates call for new approaches to achieving gender equality and food security.
They also cite dramatic progress in dealing with the HIV/Aids epidemic—a nearly 60 per cent decline in annual deaths between 2000 and 2020—as an example of what can happen when the world invests in long-term solutions and innovative approaches to entrenched issues.
“The world faces many challenges –some of which may seem insurmountable. Yet, despite the setbacks, I’m filled with hope that we can solve these problems together and save millions of lives through human ingenuity and innovation,” French Gates said. “We know progress is possible because the global community has faced difficult odds before and won. And we can do it again.”
This year’s report includes best- and worst-case scenarios for ending preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition, improving access to quality education, increasing access to financial services, and achieving gender equality.
“At this historical inflection point, how the world responds to setbacks is a choice that will impact what happens now and for generations to come. Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “We call on governments, the private sector, civil society, and philanthropic organizations to do more to meet the ambitious goals and to keep investing in new ways of thinking, new tools and data, and proven solutions to ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.”
In her essay, French Gates cites data that shows the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108—three generations later than previously projected. She calls for approaches that do more than just ensure a woman’s ability to earn a livelihood, but to control it.
“When it comes to the future of progress– not just on the global goals related to gender equality but on those on good health, quality education, ending poverty, and more—there is one engine that can drive them all: women’s power,” French Gates writes.
She highlights two proven approaches for increasing women’s power in their families and communities: building economic resilience through expanded access to digital financial tools and implementing a robust caregiving infrastructure that enables women to earn an income outside of the home.
Bill Gates calls for increased investment in R&D and other proven solutions to significantly boost agricultural productivity, particularly in Africa, where 14 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for half their wheat.
“The world should be generous and prevent people from going hungry, but in another sense, it doesn’t solve the larger problem. The goal should not simply be giving more food aid. It should be to ensure no aid is needed in the first place,” he writes.