Microsoft Co-founder and Co-Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, on Friday called for running the agriculture sector like business, saying this will be a key element in the recipe for India’s economic transformation.
He underlined the need for a shift in agriculture from the one based merely on subsistence to the one that runs like a business.
Gates was addressing the valedictory of the three-day AP AgTech Summit 2017 in this coastal Andhra city.
He said that if small-holding farmers were helped to be more productive, this can kill three birds with one stone.
“First, we can turn the largest economic sector in the country into a source of growth and set off a drag on the economy. Second, we can make sure the growth is inclusive. It not only leads to higher GDP but also lifts people out of poverty.
“Third, we can produce nutritious food to spurt a healthy and well-educated labour force to the future when the Indian economy will depend even more on high-skilled workers,” he said.
Stressing that this has been the recipe for economic transformation across Asia, in China, South Korea and Japan, Gates said it will also be a key element for recipe for India’s economic transformation.
He called for focusing on increasing productivity of small farmers and connecting them to market so that they can prosper.
Gates noted that more than half of India’s population works in agriculture and in rural India three quarters of working women are making their living in agriculture, just under half of the country’s population suffer from malnutrition and over 300 million Indians live below poverty line.
“They appear to be three different data points but they are closely related,” he said.
He said millions of small holding farmers were malnourished and impoverished and small holding women farmers were often trapped in subsistence farming.
Stating that the Foundation was giving priority to agriculture and health, Gates agreed with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu that they can work together.
“Today we are talking about great opportunities in agriculture. I am also committed to make sure we work together in health and sanitation,” he added.
He hailed the initiatives taken by the state in transforming agriculture by using technology.
Recalling his first meeting with Naidu, 20 years ago, Gates said that those early discussions are now leading to amazing results.
Naidu invited Gates to be honorary chairman of a committee of the state government and help the state with his ideas in agriculture, health and sanitation.