Why the Gates Foundation is flooding a new rice variety with funding

Theme: Water

When Bill and Melinda Gates traveled to Bihar, India, one of the most flood-prone regions in the country, they saw how a new form of rice that can survive underwater is helping farmers adapt to the consequences of climate change.

While normal rice wears itself out in floods, eventually dying and leaving a brown field of stubs, this “scuba rice” as it is often called goes dormant in floods, waiting out the high water before stretching its green stems toward the sky.

The submergence tolerant rice is emerging as one of the more powerful examples of the two major pillars that form the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s strategy for agricultural research and development: more productivity and less risk. When combined, they can enhance farmers’ resilience to shocks like floods. The investment the co-chairs have made in ensuring that this technology gets into smallholders’ hands in Asia and Africa says a lot about the approach the foundation takes to innovation.