Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates on Thursday visited the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) at Patancheru and interacted with senior scientists for about five hours. Bill Gates is also the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is funding some of the research activities at Icrisat, particularly the project called Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia (VDSA), aimed at fighting hunger and alleviation of poverty in dry lands. Bill Gates Foundation has been assisting Icrisat in the project since May 2009 to understand the dynamics of rural poverty in semi-arid tropics including Andhra Pradesh. The project is now in its fifth and final year. The Icrisat team briefed Bill Gates about its progress and the plans ahead for the next year.
The Foundation is the donor of Icrisat’s VDSA programme, while a number of government organisations and universities are the implementing agencies. The visit was kept under wraps for security reasons and media was not informed. Sources said even lower-rung staff in Icrisat were kept out off the programme. Icrisat senior scientists gave a PowerPoint presentation on the research activities including development of new varieties of crops. Sources said Bill Gates reviewed the progress of research work funded by his foundation. He is reportedly on a two-day visit to Hyderabad. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also been aiding projects aimed at fighting polio and HIV in the state.