Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Does food aid hurt or help?

That is the question being asked by the charity CARE, reports The International Herald-Tribune.

I alluded to some of the problems in the food aid distribution system in an earlier essay and CARE's assessment bears this out.

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.


"The NGOs have been ignoring this evidence for years that there's a negative impact on the prices farmers receive," said [Peter] Matlon, [an agricultural economist based on Nairobi, Kenya] who is involved in a $150 million effort financed by the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations to increase the productivity of African farmers.

CARE concluded that dumping surplus American food lowered prices paid to domestic farmers and thus undermined broader anti-poverty efforts.

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