Friday, 6 November 2009

Feed the World

An article in Last Friday’s Times stopped me in my tracks and made me think hard about the role of charities in global welfare. Once again, food aid is being requested for drought-torn regions of Africa and our natural response to pictures of dangerously emaciated children is to reach for the cheque book. But the article argued that this will only make the situation worse. In fact, it claimed that foreign food aid could be the cause of Africa’s current famine.

Even Oxfam now considers food aid to be counter-productive, and cites examples in Kenya and Ethiopia where wars were funded by the money saved by not investing in self-sufficiency – something that was only possible because Western countries sent so much food aid. And these wars tear apart the very land that should be used for agriculture and kill the able-bodied men who would work the land, so the cycle continues.

Of course, Africa has other serious issues to contend with, like disease and lack of access to clean water and education – but the famine appeals get all the headlines. I remember learning as a child “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime”. In our desire for quick fixes, we’ve forgotten that a sustainable population needs to be able to feed itself. The best service we can perform is to provide people with the tools and expertise to create their own brighter future, not make them dependent on handouts.

1 comment:

Canada Guy said...

I agree, we should stop all aid to Africa. At the same, time however, we should also pull out our western companies that are taking all the resources, which leads to the resource curse:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_curse