International food assistance has been one of the areas with the most controversies regarding its effectiveness and side effects, therefore positively unexpected is this Obama’s proposal to reform USA food aid. As a result of this, i would say, revolutionary change the same amount of funds currently spent on food aid could feed extra 17 million people a year (!!!) and local food producers would become important actors of aid system and boost local economic development. The problem right now is that food aid given by USA should be produced in the USA and shipped to the respective countries by USA cargo ships.
Last year I already wrote here about problems with USAID and how in essence it functions as an US export industry promoter rather than an international aid instrument. Because of USAID’s massive budget (around USD 12 billion) a change proposal which Obama is putting forward would mean that food aid could be purchased locally which is more effective and rational, cheaper, quicker, environment-friendly (imagine all the cargo ships currently shipping all the food aid from the states to countries in need?) and most importantly – would help more people in need. Moreover, such an aid may enable more countries to get out of their vicious circle of dependence on aid; currently food aid is counter-productive in terms of developing/ advancing local food/ agriculture sector.
I will be closely following the 2014 US budget negotiations to see if this ‘better later than never’ proposal will be killed by US national interests (lobbyists defending interests of shipping, US agriculture, transport industry) or not..