Well this is interesting. NPR is reporting today that the US may be planning to cut food aid programs that involve sending millions of pounds of US grown and processed grain overseas to alleviate hunger, and instead food aid will focus on programs that facilitate distribution of food from farmers closer to the areas in need.
Importing US-subsidized grain to alleviate hunger has a long history of driving prices down in the destination countries, and leaving local farmers stuck in a market where they cannot compete. A new program where food aid came from the same country or region as the place in need seems like a positive step towards a food system where food sovereignty – populations’ autonomy and control over their food production and supply – is possible.
This NPR piece highlights a debate between a US-based humanitarian/global development organization, International Development and Relief, and Oxfam America. IDR argues that the current system of food aid is saving lives, while Oxfam points out that it is a terribly inefficient system that robs local farmers of competitive markets to sell their crops. The voices which are blatantly lacking from this piece are the voices of farmers and people who live in Pakistan and Ethiopia and wherever else US AID has “missions” (US AID projects are actually called missions, uncomfortably, but dare I say accurately, replicating the language of colonization). Perhaps this is unsurprising, because the voices of those most directly affected and living in the places being talked about are so often omitted from the narrative, but it is none the less disappointing.