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Does Food Aid Help or Hurt

CARE, one of the world's biggest charities, is walking away from about $45 million a year in federal funding, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.

Its decision, which has deeply divided the world of food aid, is focused on the practice of selling tons of American farm products in African countries that in some cases compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.

"If someone wants to help you, they shouldn't do it by destroying the very thing that they're trying to promote," said George Odo, a CARE official who grew disillusioned with the practice while supervising the sale of American wheat and vegetable oil in Nairobi.

Under the system, the U.S. government buys the goods from American agribusiness, ships them overseas on mostly American-flagged carriers and then donates the goods to the aid groups. The groups sell the products in poor countries and use the money to fund their anti-poverty programs there.


The Christian charity World Vision and 14 other groups say that CARE is mistaken, that the system works because it keeps hard currency in poor countries, can help prevent food price spikes in them and does not hurt their farmers.

But criticism of the practice is growing. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center uses private money to help African farmers be more productive, says a flawed food aid system has survived partly because the charities that get money from it defend it.

Agribusiness and shipping interest groups have tremendous political clout, but charitable groups are influential, too, Carter said, because "they speak from the standpoint of angels."

"The farm bloc is powerful, but when you add these benevolent organizations, the totality of that has blocked change in the system," said Carter, who is also a Georgia farmer.

Some charities that champion monetization bristle at such suggestions. And their allies in Congress say that maritime and agribusiness interests are essential allies for programs to aid the hungry.


There's one point in the process that i definitely don't agree with. Buying the surplus from agribusiness. It seems like this would encourage agribusiness to grow too much food, knowing they would always have a buyer. I wouldn't be surprised to find out there's also all sorts of tax breaks and subsidies they get from the government for being a part of this program. Subsidies for agribusiness is more welfare for corporations. And hurts the small time farmer.

Aid like this is also gives rise to that debate about whether or not you're really helping. Give a man a fish versus teaching him to fish and all that jazz. Clearly, if they're in need of food, they haven't got time to wait for the crops to mature so they need immediate food aid. But at some point, you would hope they could create a sustainable system. Charity with no goal and no end in sight can be crippling rather than helpful. It's a bandaid but not a solution.

What i don't get is this. They're taking these products and selling them to the poor people, then turning around and using the profits they earned from the poor to help the poor? Did i get it wrong? Cause that makes no sense whatsoever.

And on top of that, they sell products that compete with what the African farmers are growing and selling.

Some of the charitable organizations say that food aid is ineffective but has provided funding for alot of helpful programs. They will only stop food aid if our government will replace the lost funds. Yeah. Take a look at New Orleans. I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon.

Definitely, getting food to their tables first should be the priority. But food aid has been going on for decades, and they still haven't made a dent in the problem? Mebbe it's time for a new plan.

By min | August 15, 2007, 12:10 PM | Liberal Outrage


Example: we more or less destroyed Columbia's wheat production in the 1950s. Columbia was once a major wheat exporter. But we flooded their market with food aid until local farmers were driven out of business. Now they grow cocaine.

so the solution to the war on drugs is to flood columbia with cocaine until they have to go back to growing wheat?

Close, but the cocaine isn't being consumed in Columbia. Maybe try flooding the White House...