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“Why Farming?” Today’s Symposium on Global Agriculture & Food Security in Washington, D.C.

By Opportunity International

Today in Washington, D.C., the Chicago Council on Global Affairs‘The Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security: Progress to Date and Strategies for Success” with noted experts in agricultural policy, global development, philanthropy and more.

Keynote Speakers:

The objective of the symposium is to review progress on the U.S. government’s approach to agricultural development and food security strategy, and provide critical thinking on how best to overcome potential obstacles to success. They’re also discussing how long-term U.S. public and private sector support for agricultural development can advance global security, stability, and economic prosperity, offering constructive thinking on future implementation challenges.

The Chicago Council’s Senior Fellow Roger Thurow posted an update from the conference on the Global Food for Thought blog and the Council released its 2011 Progress Report on US Leadership in Agricultural Development. Follow along on all the events of the day on Twitter @GlobalAgDev and #GADISymposium.

This morning, Rajiv Shah delivered the keynote address, policymakers and activists presented the 2011 Progress Report, and a panel led a discussion on “The Case for Food Security.”

At 12:00 p.m. ET, Bill Gates took the stage to give the lunchtime keynote speech, drawing attention to farming families in the developing world and the important role they play in cutting hunger and poverty. In a blog he posted a couple weeks ago at gatesfoundation.org, Gates said:

"Why farming? Many people don’t realize it, but most of the world’s poorest people are small farmers. They get their food and income farming small plots of land. These farming families often don’t have good seeds, equipment, reliable markets, or money to invest that helps them get the most out of their land. So they work hard, but they get no traction, and more often than not, they stay hungry and poor.

We know that smart investments in farming families help them become self-sufficient. We know that increasing productivity while preserving the environment leads to higher incomes and better lives over the long-term. But governments are not living up to their pledges to provide this kind of support to small farmers.

Solving hunger and poverty is both an urgent problem and long-term challenge. But what gives me hope is that we know that investments are working."

On the impact of the Gates Foundation’s work, he says, “Our foundation has invested $1.7 billion to date to help small[holder] farmers in Africa and South Asia. We have seen great progress in the work of our grantees and other organizations.” At Opportunity International, we’re proud to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation, which co-funded a $16 million program to provide access to Opportunity savings accounts and agricultural microfinance loans in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where less than 10% of people have access to comprehensive financial services.

Today in his speech, Gates said, “Helping poor farming families is the answer. It’s the best way to fight poverty and hunger.” For more updates from the symposium, follow #GADISymposium on Twitter, check out the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog and the Gates Foundation blog for more updates from the day.

For more on Opportunity International’s impact on food security and smallholder farmers, watch “Harvesting Hope”:

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