Saturday, August 18, 2007

Charity deserves to remain at home

The international aid group, Care, has rejected a donation of $45m (£22.7m) from the United States government.

Care criticised the way US food aid is distributed, saying it harms local farmers, especially in Africa. It said wheat donated by the US government and distributed by charities introduced low prices that local farmers are unable to compete with. Critics of the policy say it also undermines African farmers' ability to produce food, making the most vulnerable countries of the world even more dependent on aid to avert famine.

"We came to the realisation that if we wanted to do what was in the best interest of poor people and efficiency in aid, that this wasn't it," said Care President Helene Gayle

Under the system Washington buys tens of millions of dollars of surplus corn and other products from agribusiness - a system that promotes overproduction of commodities.. The food, which can only be exported on US flagged ships, is then sold by charities to raise money to pay for emergencies. US agribusiness and shipping interests, benefited to the tune of some $180m a year from the practice. US farmers love the present system, but it is slow and unresponsive when there are food emergencies.
Much of the aid is lost in the overheads of shipping it to Africa.
Not only does subsidised US food hurt African farmers, but food purchased in the US regularly takes four months to reach the destination where there is an emergency. In contrast food bought locally takes only days to arrive.

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