Feeding Poor Governance

Feeding Poor Governance

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The World Food Programme has just announced a $214-million package aimed at relieving people in 16 countries severely affected by a drastic rise in global food prices. Feeding those in need is both a moral and geo-political necessity—empty stomachs, after all, lead to mass migration, abandoned livelihoods and unrest.

But WFP’s effort is hardly a durable solution.

My friend Alex Perry has an excellent piece on this, and here’s a salient point:

Over time, sustained food aid creates dependence on handouts and shifts focus away from improving agricultural practices to increase local food supplies. Ethiopia exemplifies the consequences of giving a starving man a fish instead of teaching him to catch his own. This year the U.S. will give more than $800 million to Ethiopia : $460 million for food, $350 million for HIV/AIDS treatment — and just $7 million for agricultural development.

By all means, feed those whose lives hang in the balance. But don’t sleep too much better at night. Without good governance and smart development, starvation will only have been deferred. After the immediate crisis is treated, it’s up to donor nations to practice some tough love and insist on better practices from needy countries.