It’s late, and you’re watching TV.
Let’s say you just finished watching a movie, and you’re flipping through the channels because you’re just not quite ready to go to sleep. After flipping through a few channels, you stop. It’s another UNICEF commercial. You know the one. The commercial with the famine-stricken African children who also don’t have access to clean water. The one that makes you shift uncomfortably in your seat, but you’re too guilty to change the channel. Then the digits roll across the screen, asking you to donate just to “save one child.” You think about dialing the number because you want to help. But, do you ever just stop and think?
Why do I always see these commercials? Why is there never enough food? Where are we going wrong?
Our methods of addressing hunger are all wrong.
In the early 2000s, Africa became a target for food aid due to the series of droughts in Southeast Africa. The international response was to send food, and many countries including the U.S. followed through, sending grains such as wheat and barley to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia. On the outside looking in, this seemed like the perfect solution. A nation is starving: send grains. Yet, this solution failed to solve the tedious issue of hunger.
Under Title II of Public Law 480, the U.S. sends the surplus of American crops to developing states crippled by famine. This section prompts food aid mostly in cases of emergency, which alleviates the issues of hunger in the short term. Sending surplus only solves the issue of food availability but not food insecurity.
Food insecurity is concerned with access to food or a nation’s ability to provide food. This comes from efficient, healthy farming practices and technologies. In drought and famine, the U.S. has the best resources so we can still produce the same amount of food despite the downturn. African nations are not only more susceptible to famine due to lack of arable land, but many don’t have access to these resources. So, when famine comes we see sharp downticks in food availability. Food aid might feed a hungry mouth for the next couple years, but when famine comes again, we run into the same problems. You see the same commercial on your TV screen or on your Twitter feed, and you donate money to UNICEF. This keeps many African nations dependent.
Food aid harms local economies. Foreign grain saturates the market making it easily accessible and much cheaper than buying local produced food. In turn, self-sufficiency is compromised. In cases of monetization, the U.S. donates its own grain to charities who sell it to communities and corporations, funding their own anti-poverty programs. Farmers are unable to compete with this, and we find many burning their crops and abandoning their jobs.
We need long term development strategies.
We cannot continue to give more food while local grain rots and communities grow poorer. Long-term development invests in the nations by providing the tools necessary for self-sufficiency. This may be possible under Title III of Public Law 480 (Food for Development).
Inactive since 2005, P.L.480 Title III focused more on providing agriculture commodities to support the least developed countries. Title III will provide local farmers with the means of buying better fertilizers, irrigation systems, and windmills. Funding also provides opportunities to learn effective farming techniques that would not be used otherwise. In situations of emergency, the U.S. may continue using short-term aid to alleviate the issue but also it’s imperative that they provide the means for farmers to sustain themselves.
The goal of reactivating Title III is to reframe food aid in hopes of sustaining long-term development. Rather than using short and sympathetic approaches to alleviating food aid, the U.S should invest in community development starting from the grassroots.