Let Them Eat Cash: The New Approach to Food Aid

A few years ago, I used to subscribe to Harper's Magazine.  The lead article in one of the issues was titled "Let them eat cash: Can Bill Gates turn hunger into profit?"  It seemed interesting, but couldn't really understand much of it at the time, since I didn't know anything about food aid policy, or development in general.  Just the other day I met someone who is working with the World Food Program's Purchase for Progress program out here in Ghana.  She asked me what I thought about the WFP and food aid in general.  So I gave her my typical screed about food aid providing a market for surplus corn and soyabean production in the United States while calling it aid.  And I talked about how flooding the market with low-cost (or no-cost) food may be necessary in the short-term, but is counterproductive in the long-run, since it undermines the competitiveness of the private sector in the areas where it is delivered and leaves the market in a state of atrophy.  The conversation reminded me to go back and re-read the article.  This time, I understand it much better. The author, Frederick Kaufmann, attended a world summit on hunger and climate change (fitting both into the busy schedule).     (more…)