“A brave man of vision and strategy” says Gates while visiting the Pedon site following the long term CRS (Catholic Relief Services) support by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
A recent meeting took place in Ethiopia between Bill Gates and Remo Pedon, Managing Director of the Molvena based food group. At the heart of the trip by the Microsoft founder, the will to experience personally the Acos (Agricultural Commodity Supplies) site built by Pedon in 2005, country export leader in pulses processing and closely linked to the humanitarian work by CRS and the Gates foundation.
“You are a brave, visionary man – says Gates of Pedon after meeting the Ethiopian Prime Minister Melas Zenawi – a man of great strategy who succeeded to bring European know-how to the complex and challenging under developed Ethiopia of seven years ago”.
“When we started in 2005 – remembers Pedon – there were no such things as infrastructure and logistics, farmers used to knock daily at our doors asking to sell beans in order to send their kids to school. Nowadays, we operate through ECX the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and we load and seal containers at our site. We also have a school started for our employees’ kids which has now grown to 300 pupils and is now open to all. We offer free education and school bus transfers for those coming from far afield. Additionally, we offer a fully catered canteen on site. Ethiopia is a country of stunning beauty, its people are kind and open hearted and repay you with the warmest of smiles”.
Acos has been the first European company of its sector to invest significantly in Ethiopia thanks to the liberalization policy developed by the local government. Today Acos is recognized as the most important player in Ethiopia serving clients such as Princes, Unilever, Bonduelle, Conserve Italia, Coroos, Tiger Foods, Goya group the world over. Similarly, Acos has become the main reference partner in Ethiopia for CRS, Catholic Relief Services , the official international humanitarian agency established in 1943 of the Catholic community in the United States. The NGO alleviates suffering and provides assistance to 100 million people in need in nearly 100 countries worldwide. About 94% of donations goes to funding towards support and assistance projects overseas (918 million Euro in 2010). Acos is indeed CRS’s partner in Ethiopia supporting small, local navy pea bean farming at every level . Practically, upgrading the capacity and competitiveness of Ethiopian white pea bean smallholders to increase their income and food security while strengthening value chain links between informal smallholder farmers and formal markets.
Recently outspoken on solidarity issues, Gates accused the UN agencies publicly of allowing infighting and inefficiency to undermine the battle against hunger. Mr Gates, who has donated roughly $2bn to food security in the past decade and plans to give another $2bn in the next five years, told an audience of the three agencies in Rome that the current system was “outdated and inefficient”
Mr Gates also blamed western nations for some of the failures of the UN agencies that specialize in agriculture and food security, saying “many donors and agencies do not work together in a coordinated manner to give aid to small farmers needing it, when they need it most.”
Currently, Gates foundation supports 125 “empowerment” smallholders’ projects to enter formal economic markets. Remo Pedon’s Acos Ethiopian project is an essential part of the process, navy pea beans are not consumed in the internal market and become an important income source for small, local farmers. Acos leadsthe field as main Ethiopian navy pea bean exporter with a 70% market share.