Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The problem with food aid: one charity tells it as it is

Our latest news round up profiles one on the most inconsistent development policies currently out there - the long-running practice by the US government of providing aid relief in the form of subsidized grain bought from its own farmers. As reported in the New York Times, CARE, one of the world's largest charities, has just announced its decision to phase out its involvement, arguing that:

American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help...[by competing] with the crops of struggling local farmers.

In taking this stand, CARE is breaking not only from its own past, but also from the general practice among similar agencies.

As we argued in a recently-issued statement, the real solution is far more complex: better access for farmers to markets and capital, appropriate technologies, farm inputs, diversified crop and animal portfolios, secure land tenure, adequate irrigation, the infrastructure and capacity building they need to connect to local, regional and international markets and supply chains, and better information on the current and future levels of demand for their crops.

We have also argued for a fairer world trading system. This includes ending market-distorting subsidies by the US (and EU) on the products that matter most to African farmers. Supporting farmers in a way that fundamentally damages their long term prospects, and is rooted in a problematic trade arrangement, is flawed. By standing up to its peers, CARE has brought this practice out into the open. And for that it should be congratulated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having worked with small scale farmers in Zambia on a market-driven project with CARE, I experienced first hand how the current food aid system undermines serious efforts to help farmers stand on their own. Here is an article I wrote that highlights my frustration quite well why I think CARE should be applauded for taking this stand.


Mike Quinn