New Delhi: Delivering the inaugural address at the 8th International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS-VIII) Bill Gates, Co-Chair Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “The biggest challenge today is climate change at a time when we need to increase production & food availability. The work that statisticians do is very critical to face this challenge. Understanding how climate change is affecting crops and productivity, and how we can adapt to these changes is going to require the best statistics, including use of new digital tools. Everyone here is part of humanity’s strive to adapt to the changing climate and to make sure that particularly the poorest farmers of the world get all the available information.”
Gates said, “Climate change is complicated and requires learning different interventions including the development of new seeds suiting the changed climatic conditions and make them more available to poorest farmers. Small land holding farmers are over 2 billion people out of the whole 7 billion on the planet. This is a huge group requiring support. The small holding farmers‘ agricultural output is diminishing, and there is low production because of the effects of climate change. They drain out of their savings especially due to unexpected climatic disasters like droughts and floods.”
“The good news is that there are lots of innovations to face these challenges. Today in order to tackle the issues of climate change we need to double the investment in developing innovative seeds and particularly the seeds publicly available,” Gates added.
Citing the good examples by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres in India in developing seeds for dry land cultivation, Gates said that more such works are required and it should reach farmers, particularly the small land holders.
Gates also said that data revolution promises to change how statistics are gathered, not only for farmers but for the whole world. In many cases new techniques predict productivity well in advance, but Rich information is not available to the farmers.
Gates affirmed to statisticians and scientists that everyone can become an innovator and make suggestions available to improve agricultural policies. He expressed his hope that this Conference will provide more ideas which will be beneficial to farmers and the coming generations.
Presiding over the function Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar said that it is a unique and important opportunity for India to host this academically enduring conference. He expressed his belief that this conference shall be a learning experience for the foreign delegates to know about the country’s rich statistical tradition and also the rich culture and diversity. Also it will provide a platform for Indian professionals to interact with global experts and to be part of international scientific developments.
Tomar stressed on the importance of agricultural statistics in realizing the Government of India’s various agriculture-centric schemes. Elaborating the historical background of statistics and their development in the country, the Minister said that the Conference will be an enriching experience and hoped that the fruitful discussions will eventually bring out policy recommendations.
The four day conference is organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, ISI-CAS, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Eurostat, African Development Bank (AfDB) and various other organizations.
The theme of the Conference is ‘Statistics for Transformation of Agriculture to achieve Sustainable Development Goals’, which was selected keeping in mind challenges faced by most statistical systems to generate data for monitoring social, economic and environmental dimensions of agricultural practices and policies.
ICAS is a series of conferences that started in 1998 based on the overarching need for agricultural data worldwide. It is conducted every 3 years and the last Conference was held in Rome in 2016. The conference has a high number of participating delegates from more than 100 countries comprising senior agricultural statisticians, economists, researchers, analysts and decision makers.
Earlier today, Bill Gates also attended the release of a NITI Aayog report on building a 21st Century health system, and launched a nutrition program called ‘Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Krosh’ with Smriti Irani under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Gates Foundation also signed an MoC with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for improved healthcare.
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