Dr. Prem Warrior Discusses Agriculture's Role in Changing Poverty - GrowCanada


Yesterday, I was at GrowCanada Conference 2009 in Calgary and was very fortunate to hear Dr. Prem Warrior from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation speak about agriculture’s role in solving global poverty.

Dr. Warrior discussed the reality of global poverty being concentrated in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa.  In fact, 78% of the world’s starving live in those two regions.  Other factors affecting areas like the Sub Saharan is that it has crop yields that are 2-5 X less than other developing countries.

Dr. Warrior stated that, “agriculture is the route out of poverty for the poor.”

He provided an example of the typical Malawi farmer

  • female
  • few acres of relatively infertile land
  • no mechanization
  • little fertilizer, uses her own seeds, no crop protection products to deal with diseases and pests
  • she has no weather or agronomic information
  • kids cannot go to  school and the family has no sanitation

Many times the industry talks about innovation as the way to feed the world.  Dr. Warrior seemed to agree with this concept as he provided key concepts in defining innovation.  He stated, ” Innovation is the ability to grow crops with less water, less land, and less fertilizer and crop protection products.”  He then mentioned a couple of examples of how the Gates Foundation is innovating to provide solutions to solve poverty.

Drought tolerance – Creating drought tolerant maize is a “game changer.”  Being able to grow maize in areas that are non-traditional areas would provide the poor with crops able to feed and provide value to the local village area.

C4 rice – Current varieties of rice are considered C3.  If the Gates Foundation is successful more solar energy efficient rice will be developed.

Dr. Warrior was very clear that the Gates Foundation is selecting projects based on what affects most people, what has been neglected and where can they make the most impact.  In terms of agriuclture the five key points he made were:

  • focus on small farms
  • meet the needs of women
  • protect the environment
  • partner with others
  • long term focused

Dr. Warrior was very inspiring and really made me feel like there was hope for the future in the area of poverty.  Because of the Gates Foundations willingness to take risks in areas where Govenrment and private research will not and cannot afford, the Gates foundation has a huge opportunity make a stepped change in how we solve some of these issues.

Dr. Warrior’s closing slide summed up the presenatation by saying, “The time to innovate is now”

4 thoughts on “Dr. Prem Warrior Discusses Agriculture’s Role in Changing Poverty – GrowCanada

  1. I’m curious, did Dr. Warrior talk about any of the methods being used to engage women farmers in these regions?

    I’d be really interested in hearing about how the Gates foundation is marrying innovative technology with traditional knowledge because I think if you combine what scientists know and the knowledge possessed by those traditional farmers you could make some major progress.

    What a great project. I’m sorry I missed the conference!

  2. Dr. Warriors comments are not a new concept – Agenices have been doing this for years – working on teaching people to grow good crops. People like the Food Grains Bank provide the tools neccessary so farmers in third world countries get a chance to make a living. I heard the other day it would take 10 billion dollars to solve the worlds drinking water problems when Americans (and Canadians) spend 45 billion a year on Christmas (3 billion on pets) Anyway there are a lot of good agencies trying to help those in third world countries…find a good one and support it!

  3. Shaun;
    Re “C4 rice – Current varieties of rice are considered C3. If the Gates Foundation is successful more solar energy efficient rice will be developed. Could you imgaine the impact of C4 corn?”

    – corn is a C4 plant and that is why it is much more efficient BUT like all C4 plants it requires much higher temperatures – especially nighttime temperatures!! – to function properly. Not to mention lots of water and nutrients. This is why the realities of growing highly productive C4 plants in western Canada is rather limited.


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