It’s a sad truth that the people who will suffer most from the effects of climate change are the same people who did the least to cause it. Poor farmers in Africa have not been driving cars or even using electricity, but now they’re stuck with drought, floods, new swarms of pests, and the other problems that climate change will make worse.
Despite the challenges–compounded by skyrocketing populations, and the need for even more food–Bill Gates stands by his bet that Africa will be able to feed itself in 15 years. In a new letter, he lays out the case for investing to help the poorest adapt.
Here’s the good news. Many of the tools they’ll need to adapt are quite basic–things that they need anyway to grow more food and earn more income: access to financing, better seeds, fertilizer, training and markets where they can sell what they grow.
Tools like drought-resistant seeds (or flood-resistant seeds, or heat-resistant seeds) along with hands-on training, can double or triple how much food poor farmers can grow. As Gates writes:
This new prosperity allows them to improve their diets, invest in their farms, and send their children to school. It also pulls their lives back from the razor’s edge, giving them a sense of security even if they have a bad harvest.
It’s enough, he says, to help fill the gap as climate change makes traditional farming less and less viable. “I’m optimistic that we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change and feed the world–if we act now,” he writes.