MADRID: The bulk of the roughly three billion dollars given over the past decade by the Gates Foundation to foster agriculture in poor countries has been given to aid groups based in rich nations, said a study published Tuesday.
The foundation—set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to fight poverty and disease in impoverished nations—awarded 610 agricultural development grants worth $3.11 billion between 2003 and September 2013, the study by the Barcelona-based research group Grain found.
Roughly half of this amount went to international organizations such as the World Bank or United Nations agencies, as well as global agriculture research networks, Grain said in a report.
“The other half ended up with hundreds of different research, development and policy organizations across the world,” the group said.
“Of this last group over 80 percent of the grants were given to organizations in the United States and Europe, 10 percent to groups in Africa and the remainder elsewhere.”
The main recipient nation for agricultural grants was the United States followed by Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, according to the study.
Grain, which works to support small farmers and social movements that favor biodiversity-based food systems, said the “North-South divide is most shocking when we look at” the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which the foundation supports.
“One would assume that a significant portion of the frontline work that the foundation funds in Africa would be carried out by organizations based there,” it said.
“But of the $669 million that the Gates Foundation has granted to NGOs for agricultural work, over three quarters has gone to organizations based in the United States. Africa-based NGOs get a meager four percent of the overall agriculture-related grants to NGOs.”
Grain acknowledged that the organizations based in rich nations that received funding from the Gates Foundation used the money to develop technology to aid agriculture in poor nations.
US universities for example received money to produce crop varieties and biotechnology research for farmers in Africa.
But while African farmers supply around 90 percent of the seeds used in farming on the continent, Grain said it “found no evidence of any support from the Gates Foundation for programs of research or technology development carried out by farmers or based on farmers’ knowledge.”
The Gates Foundation, set up in January 2000, holds a $40 billion endowment — about the same as the gross domestic product of Luxembourg and ahead of many of the African nations it helps.
It finances minority college scholarships, AIDS prevention, research against diseases that strike mainly in the Third World and other causes.
The foundation massively expanded its funding for agriculture in 2007 when it spent over half a billion dollars in agricultural projects and has maintained funding at this level in subsequent years.