You may not agree with Bill Gates’ position on genetically modified plants in agriculture. You may not agree with the Microsoft gargantuannaire for not generally being an open-source software kind of guy. Yet through his foundation Gates does give a lot of money to improve the health of people in poor countries. Increasingly, he has also been giving a lot of money that he hopes will help poor farmers feed people.
So with that in mind, note what Gates has been saying in Rome this week, where the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development is meeting. The Microsoft founder showed up and said some things that likely put his hosts on edge. He is quoted as saying the current system of delivering food aid to starving people, a system with multiple United Nations agencies at its heart, is “outdated and inefficient.”
The need for collaboration among U.N. agencies, donors and governments won’t be shocking to people involved in trying to keep people from starving. It was likely shocking that the gargantuannaire offered this criticism aloud. Gates is pushing for report cards for countries getting food aid, so that stakeholders have a handy read-out to see if countries are not just trying to fight the fire of famine but making longer-run progress toward systems that get people the food they need in perpetuity.
And, yes, I believe I just invented the word “gargantuannaire.” I haven’t checked with the patent office on this, but googling just returns a blank stare.