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Gates and Buffett Honoured For Supporting Small Farmers

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, Bill Gates, Howard Buffett and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2011 George McGovern Leadership Award presentation.

(Copyright: US State Dept/Michael Gross)

The event included a keynote address from US Vice President Joseph Biden, an award presentation by last year’s winner Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and discussions with this year’s award recipients, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and others.

“Ending global hunger is not just possible. It’s a moral and strategic imperative,” Clinton said as she presented the award. “The focus that they [Gates and Buffett] have brought to individual smallholder farmers has really been a change agent in the world of fighting hunger and improving food security.”

Buffett and Gates both recognized that strengthening the rural economy demands forging a new conversation on hunger solutions that brings together the public and private sector.

In describing Gates’ and Buffett’s numerous contributions, Sheeran said, “They represent the transformative power of new alliances to tackle age-old challenges.”

The two entrepreneurs urged that in addition to a moral imperative to empower small-scale farmers in developing solutions to hunger, there are clear economic advantages to cross-sector support.

Setting a standard

Indeed, Biden emphasized in his keynote address that efforts on P4P are setting “a standard for public and private partnership for years to come.”

Looking to the great inequities of the world, the Gates Foundation found agriculture and health at the top of the list – and got involved with P4P as a tangible solution. Buffett articulated as well that P4P is a long-term strategy for agricultural development that transforms farmers’ lives.

“P4P brought millions of farmers into the marketplace,” Buffett said. “The endgame isn’t farmers selling to WFP. It’s farmers saying, ‘I can now deliver quality.’”

Gates recognized there is the opportunity to address the gap in productivity between Africa and the US as the world looks to feed a growing population. “I’m quite optimistic that we can raise productivity and have pretty dramatic effects,” he said.

Shah also emphasized that programs like P4P are key for economic development and create a “pathway to pursue inclusive growth.”

Relying on P4P as an example of best practice, Shah continued in saying that there’s “a need to make small, targeted investments now to save us money in the long-run.”

Videos from the event can be found here: