|A drying corn stalk in one of many farms in Adinefas in southern Eritrea (2004 file photo)|
As many as twenty countries will be the first to receive assistance from a new effort to improve African agriculture. The Gates and Rockefeller foundations in the United States recently announced the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Their joint effort will begin with what they call a first investment of one hundred fifty million dollars in a seed program known as PASS. PASS is the Program for Africa's Seed Systems. The money is to go toward seeds that can produce bigger harvests in conditions south of the Sahara.
To be chosen for the project, countries must be able to support agricultural research systems. Countries with civil unrest or governments unwilling to carry out the program will not be involved.
Between the nineteen forties and sixties, the Rockefeller Foundation helped launch the "Green Revolution" in Latin America and Asia.
Norman Borlaug, known as the father of the Green Revolution, was a Rockefeller Foundation scientist. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on improved crops and changes in farming methods. Farmers increased their use of fertilizers and pesticide chemicals, and irrigation systems to water crops. Food production sharply increased and helped prevent widespread hunger.
The project in Africa has similar goals. One is to develop new seeds that resist disease and dry conditions. Another goal is to make sure those seeds reach farmers, along with fertilizers, chemicals and knowledge of farming. Still another is to invest in training future agricultural scientists in Africa.
Asia's Green Revolution centered on wheat and rice. But experts say no single crop will revolutionize farming in Africa because farmers there grow a mixture of different crops.
Experts say the project will have to deal with dry conditions, poor soil quality and other realities of farming in southern Africa. Crops are often grown year after year in the same fields, so the soil loses all of its nutrients. At the same time, though, there is concern about too much use of fertilizers.
Separately, American businessman George Soros says he will give fifty million dollars over five years to a United Nations project in Africa. The Millennium Village program sends experts into African communities to improve health care, education and farming.
And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. You can download transcripts and archives of our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Shep O'Neal.