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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is It Time to Scrap the Food-Aid System?

When we read about famines, our first reaction is to want to send food. Most of us are caring people who are deeply disturbed by the continuing famine in some areas of the world. At the same time, when famines recur at frequent intervals and when we despair about whether the famines will ever become a thing of the past, it is time to question the way food-aid is delivered.

"The food-aid equation actually hurts Africa more than it helps," says economist James Shikwati, director of the Inter Region Economic Network in Nairobi, Kenya. "If it was helping," he says, "the problem would be solved by now." In fact, he sees it as fundamentally unethical. "You can't say you're helping people if you're not helping them" break the cycle of famine. African politicians use hunger as a tool to gain votes, he says. Western relief agencies use it to fund-raise. This creates a "manna mentality" where Africans wait for bread "to drop from heaven." And once again, the system faces a major test in southern Africa, where 12 million people are reportedly on the verge of hunger.

How long will it take for people to realize that raising the height of the social safety net affects people's incentives? Why produce food if others will provide it? Why produce food if others are going to undercut and depress the prices I might receive?
More people need to see this movie:
. . . . . .
[Why is this fabulous, meaningful movie not available on DVD???]
[thanks to Jack for the link]

Posted by EclectEcon on October 26, 2005 | Permalink


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I agree that food aid is often more detrimental.
An example would be North Korea, where Canadian food is often shipped with no strings attached - such as a consideration of why there is so much continuing famine in North Korea. (Or why citizens are kept in the dark about it and then forced to the country to work).

Posted by: Charlotte | 2005-10-26 10:30:51 PM

Reading "the road to hell" changed my outlook on poverty relief in the 3rd world. I can't look at "feed the children" the same since.

Posted by: Half Canadian | 2005-10-27 1:07:55 PM

This is a rough call, because it is not helpful in the long term. And it is unhelpful in sooooooo many ways. The problem is allowing tens or hundreds or thousands of innocent people starve to death to stop the abuse. How does one actually do that? What justification can there be, particularly for a Christian, to just turn your face away and sacrifice the living for the benifit of some future generation?

Mont D. Law

Posted by: mdl | 2005-10-28 6:17:35 PM

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