Gates Foundation Grants Two Africare Food Security Projects

WASHINGTON, January 10, 2006–Africare is pleased to announce receipt of two generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which will support responses to drought and food crises in Niger and Zimbabwe. Funding in the amount of $1,022,686.00 will go toward two critical emergency programs which will address drought resistant crop production in both Niger (Improve Agriculture Production and Natural Resource Management) and Zimbabwe (Gokwe Integrated Recovery Action (GIRA)).

The provision of funding for two independent projects will energize Africare’s longstanding commitment to empowering communities throughout Africa. Two separate proposals were submitted to the Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a very competitive pool for project funding. These awards will span the period of December 1, 2005 through June 1, 2007. In total, The Gates Foundation is funding seven grants in several countries where people are experiencing, or on the brink of, famine and serious food insecurity, with the intention of evaluating these innovative efforts to identify more effective ways to prevent and respond to crises.

Africare developed in 1970 in response to a severe West African drought that plagued Niger and neighboring countries in the Sahel. Since its formation, Africare has demonstrated the same vigor in emergency responses and long-term sustainable development. Funding from the Gates Foundation will bolster the organization’s ability to effectively address food crisis in the Chical Commune of Niger’s Tillabury Region by improving agricultural production and natural resources management, thereby reducing households’ vulnerability to food insecurity. Mitigation mechanisms such as cereal banks and income generation activities work in concert to sustain communities in the most vulnerable times, such as dry seasons.

Africare’s Francophone Africa Director, Myron Golden, enthusiastically commented upon receipt of the Gates support grant, “This funding is appropriate and timely. Hopefully, it will serve as a model for addressing food insecurity at community levels in Niger.”

The GIRA project in Zimbabwe is a subsistence farming program that helps people in Gokwe District meet their immediate and long term food needs. Through seed distribution, crop diversification, and food processing (maximizing the value of foods through preparation and conversion, i.e. soybeans to soymilk) of more drought tolerant crops such as sweet potatoes, soybeans, sunflower, which can easily be processed into nutritious cooking oil.

Africare’s Southern Africa Director, Kevin Lowther, said, “Africare actively encourages long-term lifestyle and behavior change such as the cultivation of more drought resistant and nutritious crops in Zimbabwe, and throughout the Southern region. This Gates support will go beyond the immediate food needs of people impacted by chronic food insecurity, establishing a realistic long-term model for sustainable development.”

These timely contributions by the Gates Foundation will enable Africare to continue to positively impact the lives of people living in such vulnerable communities.