Credit: AGRA

Agriculture in developing countries got a big boost last week, when the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would spend US$306 million on projects aimed at improving agricultural productivity.

The bulk of the money ? $164.5 million ? will go to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya, which will use it to fund projects to rejuvenate nutrient-depleted soils over 6.3 million hectares of African farmland.

The rest will be split between outfits that develop micro-irrigation technologies for smallholders in India, boost high-quality coffee production and milk quality in Kenya and elsewhere, and improve dairy farmers' access to markets in Bangladesh. The International Rice Research Institute in Manila, the Philippines, will receive $19.8 million over three years, the largest single injection of money into rice research for several decades.