LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Bill and Malinda Gates foundation has been deeply involved in Arkansas giving more than 80M in grants to various organizations in Arkansas.
Chief Financial Officer for Heifer International, Bob Bloom, says the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation has partnered with them for several years on a number of projects.
“The foundation has been a strong supporter of heifer international since 2008 and are still active with us today,” Bloom said.
The foundation has awarded over $77 million dollars in grants to Heifer, which is a large majority of what has been awarded to Arkansas over the years. In full, BMGF has awarded over $82 million to Arkansas causes.
Heifer has used the grants to build up the dairy industry in Eastern Africa. They have focused on four countries: Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. They have assisted with cow farming techniques and helped build infrastructure so farmers can have more options to sell their milk too and to allow it to stay cold.
Bloom says their project has been successful.
“These farmers incomes are up 80% on average over the course of the duration so we constitute this project as a big success for us and I think the Gates foundation would echo that for us as well,” Bloom said.
Heifer had been focusing on smaller, more local projects for a number of years. Usually their efforts would help 100-200 families in a region and Bloom says they could not put a dent into the larger issues of the region.
“Doing great work but not moving the needle when the desperation of hunger and poverty is so huge in the world,” Bloom said.
Bloom says a project of this magnitude requires time and lots of funding. When asked if Heifer could tackle this on their own he said.
“Generally no, in order to reach that scale you know $80 million is a huge amount of funding from a donor for Heifer,” Bloom said.
Bloom says the work Heifer has been able to do has forever changed the region.
“You can put your kids to school and we see a lot of that is much better sleep and nutrition is much better so stunting is not a problem with the kids. It’s a lot of the health challenges that existed pre-Heifer and this project and with the Gates funding we’ve been able to address,” Bloom said.
Many people were concerned with the recent divorce announcement between the Gates that it could effect the work of the Foundation. Bloom does not believe anything will change because both Bill and Malinda Gates have committed to those causes, especially Heifer.
“I think they’re attached to Heifer, I don’t’ see anything changing. They’re very committed to philanthropy and giving a lot of wealth away so I think everything should be solid footing,” he said.