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Friday, April 13, 2007

Poverty and Food Aid

This is a most controversial issue, especially having grown up in the Midwest where farming is such a vital component of the economy and my dad works in agribusiness. But nonetheless it is an issue that we must examine deeply and come to an understanding of how our actions and policies effect the entire world.

This comes from an April 7, 2007 article in the New York Times headlined: Even as Africa Hungers, Policy Slows Delivery of U.S. Food Aid

Within weeks, those rations, provided by the United Nations World Food Program, are at risk of running out for them and 500,000 other paupers, including thousands of people wasted by AIDS who are being treated with American-financed drugs that make them hungrier as they grow healthy.

Hoping to forestall such a dire outcome, the World Food Program made an urgent appeal in February for cash donations so it could buy corn from Zambia’s own bountiful harvest, piled in towering stacks in the warehouses of the capital, Lusaka.

But the law in the United States requires that virtually all its donated food be grown in America and shipped at great expense across oceans, mostly on vessels that fly American flags and employ American crews — a process that typically takes four to six months.

But during bumper harvests, the World Food Program has become a major buyer of Zambian-grown corn. One of its biggest suppliers is Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency, which buys from farmers’ cooperatives and unions as a way of helping small-scale farmers gain access to markets. Since 2001, it has bought more than $1 billion worth of food in some of the poorest countries on earth.

For farmers like Catherine Hangama, 36, that money makes all the difference. She works a small plot with her husband in the village of Nakandyoli in the Mumbwa district. For the first time last year, they sold a small surplus of corn — six 50-kilogram bags — for $53 to the Zambian government’s Food Reserve Agency, one of the World Food Program’s biggest suppliers here.

Over the past three years, the same four companies and their subsidiaries — Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge and the Cal Western Packaging Corporation — have sold the American government more than half the $2.2. billion in food for Food for Peace, the largest food aid program, and two smaller programs, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Shipping companies were paid $1.3 billion over the same period to move the food aid overseas, the department’s figures show.

Nonprofit groups received over $500 million in donated American food, which they sold at market rates in developing countries to raise money for antipoverty programs, according to the international development agency, and a recent study by Emmy Simmons, a retired agency official.

Agribusiness and shipping groups vigorously oppose the Bush administration proposal to buy food in developing countries with cash, which they argue is more likely to be stolen. They say that American food is safer and of higher quality and that the government can speed delivery by storing it in warehouses around the world.

So the issues are food is available cheaper and more rapidly in African countries and purchasing food in Africa would provide money to local farmers, so that they can have a chance at making a livable income and escape poverty. At the same time the local farmer is able to afford food, water, and education for their children a person in a neighboring country is able to live another day with a full stomach and not starve to death, literally.

US Agribusiness is opposed to this because they would lose $2.2 billion worth of guaranteed revenues from the federal government. Oh yea don't forget about the shipping industries $1.3 billion. So while American businesses continue to reap profit, poor Africans continue to die needlessly and African food products continue to go to waste. I seem to recall there is some concern that ethanol production and demand for corn will increase the prices of crops, adversaly affecting our prices at the grocery store. One way to alleviate some of that suffering would be to let African get African food!

On top of everthing else, more people can be fed per dollar if food is purchased locally, transportation costs are exponentially lower and availabilty is immediate, in comparison.

So here are some closing statistics from Global Issues.

The amount spent annually in Europe alone on cigarettes ($50 billion) could be used to fund Basic Education, Water and Sanitation, Basic Health and Nutrition for everyone, and Reproductive Health for women. (Total $40 billion)

The amount spent of pet food annually in Europe and the US ($17 billion) could be used to provide Basic Health and Nutrition for everyone! ($13 billion).



Christy Joy Cross said...

You are so smart and wonderful I love your mind and heart.

Malex said...

ditto...just a different kind of love