ood aid must be reformed to feed hungry
If you teach a person to fish, she will eat for a lifetime, gaining sovereignty over her food system and food security. If you simply give a person a fish, however, she will eat for just a day. If you give her the US’s fishy leftovers from our subsidized food system, you could destroy the local producers’ livelihoods in her area. The US’s approach to humanitarian food aid in the last half century has stolen business from small-scale farmers and produced putrid piles of grain in markets around the world. While shipping loads of food overseas disadvantages farmers in the recipient countries, sourcing food aid from areas in crisis supports struggling farmers and builds local capacity. President Barack Obama has recently advocated for up to 45 percent of food aid to be sourced locally in the 2014 budget in order to better help the hungry served by our humanitarian aid.
The Administration realizes that sending free US grain to compete with small-scale producers in aid-recipient countries is not a good idea. Neither is shipping US food aid to NGOs in order to have them sell it to fund other development projects. Instead, more cash transfers and locally sourcing aid can empower – rather than compete with – area farmers. Creating robust local markets also decreases the likelihood of countries remaining dependent on international support.
Procuring humanitarian food aid closer to the disaster logically provides a quicker fix to the often impending starvation during crises. In emergency situations, food is urgently needed, and sourcing locally can help people get aid months sooner. It is much easier to sign a check or make an electronic payment than it is to load a US steamer ship full of food and send it halfway across the world. As Andrew Natsios, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development under President George W. Bush, affirmed, “I’ve run these operations, and I know that food aid often gets there after everyone’s dead.”
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