Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ethiopia: Food aid troubles

A challenge for the successful countries of the world is how to assist without doing more harm, as reported here about Ethiopia:
Woldu - and now the aid community - have generally accepted that while vast sums of international support are needed to save lives, that help carelessly applied can make things worse rather than better over the long term.

There are two problems: firstly, that any large-scale intervention by definition distorts local economics.

"We import huge amounts of grain from abroad. So this will inevitably affect the internal production and markets," said the Deputy Prime Minister Addisu Legesse.

When foreign aid lands, local prices collapse, and farmers who have managed to produce a surplus find their crop is virtually worthless.

They have no money to pay for seed or fertiliser for the following year.

The US government's Agency for International Development (USAid) is one of the main suppliers of food aid.

Yet privately even senior officials within the department recognise its negative impact.

"But we can't change without congressional approval, and Congress doesn't want to lose the support of Kansas farmers who sell to the government," said one who spoke off the record.
Obviously, more nuance is needed.

UPDATE (3/15/06): Chap has more on "aid" programs here and at the links he provides. I am not sure, based on my experience, that Africa is really all that different than other aid recipients scattered about the earth. Kosovo comes to mind...

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