The first Green Revolution wasn’t really “green” at all. The phrase actually refers to the period of time, starting in 1945, when pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, and irrigation came into play in the agricultural world. The revolution was supposed to bring plentiful food to developing nations, and it did, but it had the unintended consequence of making the whole world dependent on toxic chemicals. The second Green Revolution, proposed by Bill Gates, will be a whole lot more sustainable.
Yesterday, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $120 million in agricultural grants for poor farming families. The grants will support everything from better seeds and training to market access, a farmer radio network, and farmer-friendly political policies. And most importantly, the grants will do it all without pesticides. Instead, they’ll support research for nitrogen-fixing legumes, high-yield varieties of sorghum and millet, and pest-resistant varieties of sweet potato.
Gates’ push for farmer productivity is just a small piece of his foundation’s $1.4 billion in agricultural grants–a program that includes drip irrigation, no-till farming, and flood-resistant crops. Critics of the program complain that Gates is focusing on technological fixes for the problems of poverty instead of concentrating on the root cause. Still, $120 million isn’t a bad start.