Bill Gates is the chairman of Microsoft, U.S.A. and the co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The following in an excerpt of the essay he wrote for USAID’s Frontiers in Development publication.
As I write this, my wife, Melinda, has just returned from a visit to Tanzania with members of a congressional delegation, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, to learn more about global health and development programs.
Reflecting on the trip, Melinda said the high point was meeting Joyce and Raymond Sandir, small farmers who eke out a living growing maize and a few other crops and selling milk from their single cow. When Melinda asked them about their experience with a new, higher-yielding, diseaseresistant maize seed, Joyce said their income had more than doubled. Although the Sandir family lives without running water or electricity, Joyce didn’t hesitate when one Senator asked what she planned to do with the extra money. She said she would pay for more education for her children.
For Melinda, the visit was another reminder of why we do this work. For members of the congressional delegation, it was a chance to see first-hand the impact that development aid has on people’s lives. A few pounds of healthy seed that wouldn’t be given a second thought in wealthy countries can trigger a virtuous cycle of health and productivity in poor countries. Farmers can feed their families. Children can go to school and become valuable members of the community.
Local economies grow, strengthening the social and economic fabric of nations. Eventually, these countries are in a position to offer development assistance to other poor countries. Some, like Korea, have made the full transition and no longer rely on official development assistance (ODA). Others, such as Mexico, Brazil, India, and China, are following a similar path. These aren’t isolated examples in a few lucky countries. In the past 50 years, advances in agriculture saved a billion people from starvation. Vaccines and other medical advances reduced childhood deaths by more than 80%. The proportion of people in extreme poverty has been cut in half. The Sandir family is one example among many millions.
Read the full article in USAID’s Frontiers in Development publication.