Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Food aid, a gigantic waste of money?

Biopact: Pedro Sanchez, director of the Tropical Agriculture Program of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and 2002 World Food Prize Laureate, has some interesting numbers on the unsustainable costs of food aid. They show that the multi-billion dollar food aid industry is in a crisis because of rising costs. But there is a very positive side to this crisis: it has now become rational and profitable to invest in local farmers in developing countries - something that should have been done ages ago. The food aid industry has always had perverse effects, such as the destruction of local markets and farmers. But now, at last, there is a glimmer of hope that this inefficient and morally questionable industry can be phased out.

…The agricultural expert stresses that his positive message is not theory. To demonstrate the revolution that can be brought about, Sanchez refers to the example of Malawi, [which subsidized fertilizer and seeds for farmers].

…The time is ripe to put an end to the obscene status quo, which forces African countries to import food or become dependent on aid, while in fact they should be major food exporters. Malawi's example, and the rising food prices are the key to this much needed transformation.

…American and European tax-payers should no longer subsidize the costly, inefficient and perverse food aid industry. Instead, they should demand that their 'aid' money is invested directly into small farmers and their capacity to supply their countries' populations.

Food aid for Darfur, USAID, Wikimedia Commons

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