In the second annual letter he has issued to the public to discuss his and his wife’s philanthropic work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft founder Bill Gates issued an upbeat assessment on the prospects of overcoming the challenges faced by the world’s poorest people—many in Africa—in the fields of health and agriculture. Gates discussed the letter, released today, and the work of the foundation in an interview with AllAfrica’s Tami Hultman.
In his letter, Gates refers to his visit to the “BECA Laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya, which is headed by a scientist named Segenet Kelemu. Their laboratory is doing state-of-the-art marker-assisted breeding to improve sorghum, cassava, and corn so the crops yield more food and resist pests, drought and diseases. Segenet grew up in Ethiopia, moved away for graduate school and worked in other countries for 25 years. But she chose to come back to Africa in 2007 to help develop a generation of plant scientists working to end Africa’s food insecurity. I was very impressed with the teams she has put together and the work they are doing with plant breeders throughout Africa. For products like sorghum, even when they can tell that a seed has all the right characteristics, they still have to develop varieties that also match local tastes, since unlike corn or wheat in rich countries there isn’t one standard form that everyone prefers.”