I already wrote in April here about the controversial and ineffective US food aid programme, which delivers about 50% of all the international food aid. Today Foreign Policy Journal has published a great article on this matter illustrating the big dilemma US politicians face: to be effective (feed more people for the same amount of money) or save American jobs in agriculture and shipping industry sectors. Farm bill, which is currently under revision, is still an opportunity for food aid reform proponents to suggest/ make the long overdue changes, however lobbyists representing farmers and shipping industry may again kill this hope.
It is understandable that politicians are prioritizing interests of their citizens, but this is not what aid is about. Aid, which in essence is a voluntary transfer of resources from one country to another, should be given in a way which maximizes the benefits to the receiver not the giver. But at the moment US food aid is a substantial instrument to subsidize and support US agriculture sector (all US food aid should be produced in the US) and shipping industry (which is shipping all the food aid to the respective places around the world) rather than the actual beneficiaries. Moreover, up to 75% of funds spent on food aid may at the end stay in the hands of US businesses which eventually makes it very difficult to label this food aid as ‘aid’.
If all the food aid would be purchased/produced locally/ regionally and delivered based on the principles of efficiency, effectiveness and long-term empowerment only, it would:
- improve local/ regional economies through employment, industrial and agricultural development, investment;
- decrease the risk of harming/ crippling/ destroying local markets through dumping free food aid and creating dependency on free food;
- improve carbon footprint, reduce transportation costs and deliver more environmentally-friendly aid;
- improve local capacity and self-sufficiency to produce/ store/ transport and distribute food;
- improve the quality of the food (countries and regions around the world have so diverse habits and traditions with respect to food; just imagine, if from tomorrow you, who loves pasta, had to eat lentils or corn and just that);
This is extraordinary example of hypocrisy and commercialization of aid undermining its core principles and aims.