Bill Gates© Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

A charity founded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has unveiled £28m in funding to fight the global spread of livestock diseases.

Mr Gates announced the funding as he visited Edinburgh University with UK international development secretary Penny Mordaunt.

See also: 6 farming similarities between the UK and Africa

Together, they unveiled a plaque to formally launch the university’s £35m Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, aimed at safeguarding the world’s food supplies.

The academy will act as a hub for teaching and research into global food and environmental security, sustainable rural development, and the well-being of animals and people.

It will offer undergraduate and postgraduate training, educational activities and resources to equip future leaders with the skills and knowledge required to tackle these challenges.

Agricultural science

New undergraduate courses in agricultural sciences will prepare students to respond to the global challenges associated with sustainable farming in the face of a changing climate.

During the visit, Mr Gates announced £28m from the Bill & and Melinda Gates Foundation for the Edinburgh-based Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed).

The alliance works to improve the accessibility and affordability of livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics in developing countries.

Mr Gates said: “For over a billion people living in the world’s poorest countries, agriculture and livestock are a lifeline out of poverty.

“The science and research being led by the great minds here in Edinburgh are making huge strides in improving the health and productivity of livestock.

Improving resilience

Ms Mordaunt unveiled a package of investments in research to improve the resilience of farmers’ crops and livestock to natural disasters and protect them from diseases.

It included £4m for the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health, based at the university’s Roslin Institute at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

The centre aims to build on gains made in UK farming from animal genetics and selective breeding to improve livestock productivity and resilience in developing countries.

The centre is a partnership between the Roslin Institute, Scotland’s Rural College and the International Livestock Research Institute based in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Ms Mordaunt said unpredictable flooding, plant diseases and drought were threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of African farmers who were struggling to grow crops.

“The urgency of the task is clear,” she said.

“That’s why UK aid is supporting British scientists to develop new crops that are more productive, more nutritious and more resistant to droughts and flooding.”

UK aid research would not only stop diseases from destroying the livelihoods of African farmers, it would help identify responses to diseases before they reached the UK.