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Bill Gates on CGIAR and Adapting to a Warmer World
Thursday, 2021/02/25 | 08:21:36

CGIAR Feb. 12 2021

We need to get to zero emissions, and we’re going to need a lot of innovation to do it. But innovation doesn’t happen overnight, and it will take decades for green products to reach a big enough scale to make a significant difference.


In the meantime, people all over the world, at every income level, are already being affected in one way or another by climate change. Just about everyone who’s alive now will have to adapt to a warmer world. As sea levels and floodplains change, we’ll need to rethink where we put homes and businesses. We’ll need to shore up power grids, seaports, and bridges. We’ll need to plant more mangrove forests and improve our early-warning systems for storms.


I want to tell you about the people I think of first when I think about who will suffer the most from a climate disaster and who deserve the most help adapting to it. They don’t have much in the way of power grids, seaports, or bridges to worry about. They’re the low-income people I meet through my work on global health and development, and for them climate change could have the worst consequences of all. And their stories capture the complexity of fighting poverty and climate change at the same time. 


For example, in 2009, I met the Talam family—Laban, Miriam, and their three children—when I was in Kenya to learn about the lives of farmers with less than four acres of land (or, as they’re known in development parlance, smallholder farmers). I visited their farm a few miles down a dirt road outside Eldoret, one of the fastest-growing cities in Kenya. The Talams didn’t have much, just a few round mud huts with thatched roofs and an animal pen, and their farm covered about two acres, smaller than a baseball field. But what was happening on this small plot of land was drawing hundreds of farmers from miles around to learn what the owners were doing and how they could do it themselves. 


Laban and Miriam greeted me at their front gate and started telling me their story. Two years before, they had been smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming. Like most of their neighbors, they had been desperately poor. They grew corn (in Kenya, as in many places around the world, it’s known as maize) and other vegetables, some to eat themselves and the rest to sell at market. Laban would work odd jobs to make ends meet. To earn more income, he had bought a cow, which the couple would milk twice a day: They’d sell the morning milk to a local trader to get a small amount of cash, and they’d save the evening milk for themselves and their children. In all, the cow would produce three liters of milk per day; that’s less than a gallon each day to sell and split among a family of five. 



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