Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Bill Gates first visit focuses on farming, health

The founder and co-chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates said he was impressed by the Ethiopian health extension system during his visit to Ethiopia last week.

“Yesterday I flew out to Silte [Zone] and I got a chance to visit a health center. The health system has hired many well trained extension workers.  It is a really exciting program. Now people will have access to health care that previously did not. The foundation has helped with the evaluation and training. What I saw at the health centers made me very enthusiastic. It appears it [the health system] is headed in a positive direction,” said Microsoft’s founder and philanthropist Bill Gates in his briefing for journalists at Sheraton Addis on Wednesday.      
He met a number of key government officials including Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Tedros Adhanom (PhD), Minister of Health and representatives from the donor community. Gates spoke with them about commercial seed farms in addition to what the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has accomplished in the past 12 years of its operation in the areas of agriculture, health and sanitation. 
“We are focusing on health and agriculture because we feel they will make the largest impact in lifting the world’s two billion poor out of poverty. We also work on financial and sanitation issues,” he said.     
In its involvement in Ethiopia since 2000 in the areas of health, agriculture and sanitation, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has spent close to 400 million dollars according to Capital sources in the foundation. This does not include the assistance the foundation provides for Ethiopia through the United Nations Agencies and Global Fund.
Gate says looking at ways to increase food productivity will help increase food self-sufficiency, although he says that being completely self sufficient is a lofty goal. 
“It is a very ambitious target. If you take a super strict definition like a hundred percent; you are not going to achieve that. There might be some areas where there is drought so that there might not be food self sufficiency. Getting the number of food self insufficient people down is a very important goal. We want to increase productivity in areas where food is scarce and have a plan in place to help those farmers.  So, when we look at the goals of the Ministry of Agriculture working with the Agricultural Transformation Agency, they have the goal of reducing food insecurity. We are participating in the achievement of those goals. I think it is very ambitious goal even to get to a reduction of 90 percent food insecure people by 2015. We should all do everything we can to have better productivity. Food aid is not the last resort we have. The good thing we have is we put more money for improving productivity than food aid. Whenever there is drought, there will be more people who are food insecure than there are today. The goal should be to have more resilience to withstand such a crisis. I do think there will be progress. I do think they are focused on it. And I do think the tools to improve productivity exist. And I do think the priorities are there,” he confirmed.