Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Road to Hell is Paved by Good Intentions

Food aid sent to Somalia to combat one of the world's largest malnutrition crises has been criticised by Somali elders for being delivered at the start of the harvest season.

It is not the first time that Marere's elders have criticised the UN's World Food Programme . After a chaotic food distribution last year, which also took place during the harvest season, the elders wrote to WFP asking the UN organisation not to deliver food again. It is driving farmers into poverty by effecting the local market prices , lowering the price of maize by 60 per cent.

Musa Yusuf Ahmed, 44, was a policeman before the Somali government collapsed in 1991. Now, he tries to make a living from farming, growing maize, beans and watermelons. He normally sells a 50kg bag of maize for 100,000 Somali shillings (about £3.10), but Mr Ahmed said it had dropped to 40,000 (£1.25). "For we farmers it is a big problem," he said. "The food will benefit the people with no money but it will hurt the farmers."

The US Department of Agriculture gives commodities to charitable organizations to sell in low-income countries where they are working. From these sales the NGOs obtain local currency, which they use to finance their projects in those countries. Because the commodities are sold , the local buyers obviously had the purchasing power to buy those commodities. These sales then must have displaced potential commercial sales – by either local farmers or other suppliers. When “monetization” of food aid displaces sales of local farmers, it drives down the local market price. This may actually increase poverty .

In the short-term food aid benefits targeted vulnerable beneficiary households but creates a dependency syndrome and a distortion of local food prices and markets. The low market price creates a disincentive to food producers. Investment decisions change in the production plans of the subsequent season in favour of cash crop production .

The simple task of stopping people from starving or going hungry is never a simple task under capitalism .

No comments: