On Friday 26 January, Bill Gates joined International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt at the University of Edinburgh to celebrate UK agriculture innovations, announcing $40 million of funding to prevent the spread of livestock diseases worldwide.
The speeches took place at the university’s Easter Bush Campus, which is home to the Roslin Institute for animal research and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
Edinburgh University Principal Sir Timothy O’Shea opened the event, priding the institution for its “committed students and staff”.
First speaker Penny Mordaunt declared the new UK aid research, which is being carried out by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership dedicated to reducing rural poverty and increasing food security.
The State Secretary announced further plans to develop the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, with bases in Edinburgh and Nairobi. The centre applies innovative tools such as poultry genetics, dairy genomics, and breeding strategies to help African farm animals.
“New ideas, cutting edge science and innovative partnerships with organisations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help Britain create a healthier, more secure, and prosperous world for us all”, she said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is a private organisation in the United States, which aims to enhance global healthcare and reduce poverty. It has worked closely with the Department for International Development (DFID) for over a decade in administering overseas aid.
Mr Gates, Co-Director of the foundation, highlighted the significance of Scottish agricultural science in “helping hundreds of millions of the poorest people in the world transform their lives”, describing the University of Edinburgh as a “450-year-old institution on the cutting edge”.
The humanitarian celebrated the launch of the University of Edinburgh’s new Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, which aims to provide world-leading research, innovation, and training in global food and environmental security.
“If you care about the poor, you should care about agriculture”, Gates said.
For over a billion people living in the world’s poorest countries, agriculture and livestock are a lifeline out of poverty. Millions of farmers in Africa, for example, struggle to raise enough crops to put food on the table because of natural disasters.
UK scientists are conducting new research to enable farmers to grow crops that are more nutritious, resistant to disease and better able to withstand severe floods or droughts in Africa.
“With the world population expected to reach 11 billion by the end of this century, and demands on natural resources at an all-time high, it’s essential that we find new ways that feed this growing population well”, Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security Director Geoff Simm stressed.
At the University of Edinburgh, researchers are helping to fight the Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT) disease, a vertebrate disease killing over 3 million cattle every year. For the first time in over 40 years, a new AAT drug may be available to eradicate this devastating disease.
So far, the BGMF has funded over $1 billion in UK research institutions. Mr Gates now announced an additional $40 million for the Edinburgh-based charity the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) to fight the spread of livestock diseases worldwide.
GALVmed is a public-private partnership on the university’s Easter Bush Campus, which develops accessible and affordable vaccines for livestock-dependent countries, such as the Newcastle disease vaccine. The investor emphasised: “The more we cut diseases off at their source, the more good we do for British and for global agriculture”.
“I hope that you will continue to stand firm in your commitment to help the world’s poorest people”, Gates concluded.
Image: Neil Hanna / Photographer