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Gates donates 20 mln dollars to help rice farmers: institute

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Jan 28, 2008
Bill Gates, the world's richest man, is to donate nearly 20 million dollars for research into helping rice farmers deal with global warming, the International Rice Research Institute said Monday.

The Philippines-based institute said it would use the donation from the Microsoft founder to harness scientific advances and address major unsolved problems in agriculture.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would release the 19.9-million-dollar grant over three years, the institute said.

The money initially would help give improved rice strains and linked technology to 400,000 small farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, it added.

"Farmers are expected to achieve a 50 percent increase in their yields within the next 10 years," the institute said in a statement.

"The new funding comes at a vital time for rice farmers, who are now facing major production pressure and rising prices that threaten Asia's continued economic growth," the body said.

The donation would help farmers struggling with little or no irrigation by helping to develop and distribute rice strains capable of withstanding stresses such as drought and flooding, the institute said.

Robert S. Zeigler, the institute's director general, emphasised that climate change threatened to worsen the frequency and severity of such problems, making the need for hardy crops urgent.

"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers -- most of whom are women," said Gates in the statement.

He is to step down as head of Microsoft in July to devote his time to running his foundation, which works to reduce global economic inequalities.

The grant from Gates is part of 306-million-dollar package that nearly doubles the foundation's investments in agriculture, the institute said.

Rice is a staple food for 2.4 billion people. Annual rice output must increase by nearly 70 percent to nearly 880 million tonnes in 2025 to meet projected global demand, according to the institute's estimates.

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Thousands Of Crop Varieties From Four Corners Of The World Depart For Arctic Seed Vault
Mexico City, Mexico (SPX) Jan 24, 2008
At the end of January, more than 200,000 crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East-drawn from vast seed collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)-will be shipped to a remote island near the Arctic Circle, where they will be stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), a facility capable of preserving their vitality for thousands of years.

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