Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One instance where buying local doesn't work

Since President Obama is working on revamping the foreign aid structure, we hope that he includes a change in how the US purchases food aid. Instead of buying grain from an area close to the hungry nation, the US buys from American grain warehouses only. This hurts the economy of the hungry nation even further, and wastes a lot of time and money shipping the food over there.

The prior administration under George Bush tried to change this policy, but it was stopped by Congress. The members of Congress were probably concerned about how American farmers would react to the change. Changing policy to buy foreign products doesn't sit well with American voters and we are sure that some agriculture lobbyists has some things to say about it as well.

This opinion peace that we found at the Pasadena Star News sums up the problem with this policy. Writer Yifat Susskind works for MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide.

Meet Khalida Mahmoud, a 29-year-old woman whose farming family was driven into worsening poverty, after U.S. food aid poured into her home region of eastern Sudan. That's not how food aid is supposed to work, but just look at the policy: your tax dollars are used to buy grain from U.S. factory farms, the same giant corporations that already receive $26 billion in tax subsidies. Then the grain is transported halfway around the world, using thousands of gallons of fossil fuel and releasing tons of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The transport typically takes months while hungry people grow more desperate.

Once the food finally arrives, it floods agricultural markets, destabilizing fragile local economies. Small farmers are the first to go bankrupt. Most of them are women like Khalida, who work small plots of land hoping to sell enough at market to buy cooking oil, flour, a bar of soap and a pair of shoes so a child can stay in school.

These women are more than the backbones of their families: they grow most of Africa's food. Unlike giant grain corporations, these women farm without fossil fuels and harmful chemicals. Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution: the U.S. should buy food aid crops directly from local farmers in Africa. When the U.N. World Food Program did this, they were able to obtain 75 percent more corn to feed hungry families than when they purchased grain from factory farms in the U.S. Buying specifically from women farmers has an enormous added benefit. Studies consistently show that when poor women gain access to money, they use it to provide food, healthcare and education for their children.

Read more: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/opinions/ci_16307280#ixzz129M7g9L2

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