Politics of Food Aid

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Do the political motives behind food aid programs prevent recipient countries from gaining the most benefit and food security possible? The gift of food aid - providing food, money or other help to lessen hunger and attain what is known as ‘food security’, is one many believe to be charitable and good willed. Countries around the world rely on this form of aid for nutrition and care during and after natural disasters, war and other emergency situations and having food available that would be otherwise unattainable is undoubtedly crucial to their survival. However, what most people within the donor countries and involved in donating don’t know is that food aid is much more than meets the eye. There are many hidden intentions as to why a country would be so kind as to give away “free” food to others. Often, food aid is tied with conditions that would solely benefit the donor country. The donor country would withhold their food aid until the recipient country reforms to said conditions, all the while arguing the recipient country is ‘starving’ its own people by refusing to agree to the terms. Most don’t even know that the type of food aid that is considered free is rarely the kind given to countries requiring help. It is in this way (and many more) that food aid programs have been highly criticized for actually being more beneficial to the donor countries than to the recipient countries - those actually in need. Further, food aid programs have actually been linked to lower food security and a worsening economy of recipient countries due to its negative effect on local farmers and markets. In short, food aid has been a highly politicized concept since its beginning; and the food aid that is generally known to the public is far from the one being taken advantage of everyday. Therefore, what is the true motive behind food aid, and what is the real gain?

In many ways, food aid is more advantageous to the donor countries as well as multinational agribusinesses and transportation companies than to the hungry citizens of the recipient countries. One of the less known facts about food aid is that donor countries receive quite a lot in return for their ‘charity’. For instance, many donor countries purposely reserve the transporting of food for American companies. So much in fact, that they operate under a law stating that at least 75% of all food aid shipments must be transported via US vessels. On top of that, a mere 4 freight forwarders handle 84% of all food aid shipments. Further, so many food aid shipments are reserved for US transportation services that some shippers rely on food aid shipments alone for their existence. Even though it would immensely benefit the recipient countries to be involved in the transportation of food aid and the employment opportunities that come with it, majority of the business and jobs created by food aid transportation go directly and incontestably to American citizens. Another example of the unfairness shown by many donor countries is the fact that the set of rules governing food aid are controlled by an organization whose first concern is not toward the food security or health of receiving countries, but instead toward the economy. The Committee for Surplus Disposal (CSD) is the organization in charge of monitoring the laws of food aid, however their primary concern is that food aid does not displace the trade or commercial imports. Due to this it is criticized for serving the interests of the donor countries rather than the hunger of the recipient countries. Also the CSD is based in Washington DC-the largest exporter of food aid to recipient countries, rather than at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters located in Rome. The suspicious objectives, the name and even the location of the CSD prove its bias toward the economies of the donor countries. As stated before, a very small amount of the food aid donated is what one might call ‘free’. Rather a form of food aid called...
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