Buffett Foundation, Borlaug Institute Advance African Agriculture

Strategic partnership will fight hunger by investing in agricultural research, extension and education.

Published on: Jan 19, 2012

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation today announced a partnership with the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of the Texas A&M University System to promote African agricultural research, extension, and education.

Based at the Ukulima Farm Research Center in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, the partnership will be will support science that increases African agricultural production, enhances rural livelihoods and conserves natural resources.

"Our goal was to create a real-world field space at a sufficient scale where scientists and farmers can work together to fight hunger in Africa," said foundation president Howard G. Buffett.  "I have traveled extensively across Africa and have seen the degraded soils, the lack of access to quality inputs, the inefficient market systems, and the underdeveloped agricultural support systems that contribute to keeping 239 million Africans hungry. Ukulima Farm and this collaboration is a direct response to these needs. It is my hope this collaboration will improve agricultural productivity across the African continent, particularly for Africa's poorest farmers."

Traditional development efforts have not yet provided a solution for the nearly 1 billion people in the world who currently live without food security, Buffett said. Traditional approaches often lack the basic understanding of agricultural and environmental sciences required to provide a basis for food security.

Ukulima Farm was created by the Buffett Foundation as a platform for organizations and researchers to develop technology and practices to advance African agriculture and to develop new models to address the diverse needs of agriculture in Africa and meet the food needs of the more than 750 million sub-Saharan Africans who subsist on less than $1 per day.

"We are excited about Ukulima and the opportunity for researchers to collaborate in Africa, for Africa," said Dr. Edwin Price, Borlaug Institute director. "These efforts that promote scientific exchange between continents and across borders are essential for achieving the vision of global food security."

The concept of Ukulima Farm is grounded in the principle that technology must be developed and tested in the African context, at scale, and in collaboration with a variety of researchers and scientists to adequately address the many issues facing African agriculture.

The International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement, Pennsylvania State University, University of Missouri and Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization are currently all partners in the effort.

"We are excited about our partnership with the Borlaug Institute. We feel that the Borlaug Institute has the research expertise and the international experience required to lead this effort and realize the full potential of Ukulima," Buffett said.

The Borlaug Institute will oversee a long-term strategy that will focus research activities in cooperation with African scientists from universities and research centers in the region. Dr. James P. Muir, Texas AgriLife Research agronomist, has spent much of his life living and working across southern Africa and will lead efforts at Ukulima Farm Research Center as the resident director.

"Africa needs both regional and international scientific exchange to develop appropriate solutions for the African context," Muir said. "It has made much progress in the past decade in trade and commerce, but more work is needed in agriculture."