By now, we’ve all heard that the U.S. farm subsidy policy has turned us into corn people, but an article in the monthly food section of Britain’s Observer is a harsh indictment of how the United States is shipping its overflow of corn overseas as food aid—and devastating economies in Africa.
The Observer’s investigation, titled “How America Is Betraying the Hungry Children of Africa,” recounts how in AIDS-ravaged Malawi, a program to feed corn-and-soy porridge (CSB) to children at their school has resulted in better school attendance and healthier kids.
The United States, seeing the encouraging results, decided it wanted to get in on the program, and pledged millions of dollars in food aid to Malawi, as well as announcing similar programs in Kenya, Cambodia, Guinea, and Pakistan.
The problem is … that the US grant came with a condition: it had to be spent on American CSB to be bought from American farmers and put in American ships to be transported to Malawi.
At a time when there is already a surplus of locally produced corn in Malawi and the prices are depressed to nearly nothing, the U.S. deal isn’t doing local farmers any good.
‘Emergency food aid in humanitarian situations is of course a good thing, but it can be a terribly blunt instrument,’ says Ann Witteveen, Oxfam’s food security coordinator for southern Africa. It can and does often do more harm than good.