FAO urges food aid reform

img Fao report The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today proposed a series of major changes how international food aid should be managed and delivered.

In its today released annual report, The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA), FAO says that about a third of the global food aid budget (ca. USD 600 million) is being spent in donor countries and never reaching beneficiaries.

The world’s leading food donors spend as much as half of their food aid budgets on domestic processing and shipping by national carriers, according to research quoted by the report.

While the report acknowledges that there is no substitute for food aid in coping with humanitarian crises and in some cases with chronic hunger it proposes to provide cash and food vouchers wherever possible rather than food aid shipments, as these can affect local producers and markets and distort international trade.

If it would be possible that monies could be passed directly to e.g. civil societies in countries these might stimulate markets and support systems in recipient countries.

Unfortunately reality has shown in many areas of development support that when just providing such support through government channels even more overhead will be produced. This is most likely related to political systems in these countries – some of them are considered the most corrupt in the world – and the lack of political pressure by donor countries that too often in the past have prioritized geo-political interests over humanitarian demands.

Nevertheless in-kind donation to countries have also shown adverse effects with medical goods reappearing on the markets in developed countries to name just one example.

It is good to see that FAO is starting a discussion on how aid is provided today, but the first steps have to be done within the overall priorities to support countries and their systems to help themselves long term. Much political support will be needed for this and the outlook over the next 10-15 years, particular within FAO’s arena of supplying food to developing countries in need is alarming when looking into prediction models for global warming or climate change.

The full report and executive summary is available online from FAO’s web site.

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