After months of political pressure, the U.S. government is really starting to get it: local food is the key to a healthy, sustainable future.
Back in August, I’d blogged about the floods in Pakistan and the country’s exacerbated food aid crisis following the devastation. The good news is that Rajiv Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recently announced that $70 million of the $75 million that USAID has allotted for food aid will be used to purchase food from within Pakistan.
The U.S. is the world’s largest donor of food aid, but our generosity has a darker side. This aid typically takes the form of food donations shipped from the U.S. (60 percent of each food aid dollar is spent on shipping; see our blog post “Let’s Stop Wasting Millions on Food Aid”) as opposed to using cash to buy local food.
Buying food locally is a no-brainer: It gets to people in need much more quickly than big-ag food distribution, it’s drastically cheaper and, best of all, it helps local and regional farmers become more self-sufficient. The fact is, in some cases our food aid has done more harm than good by distorting local markets, which undercuts vulnerable farmers and creates a vicious cycle of dependency. Our donations have, at times, destroyed communities’ ability to produce their own food.
The policy change for Pakistan is a bold new step that will get food to those who need it that much faster and will make our aid money go that much farther.
Please join AJWS in thanking Administrator Shah for his leadership in shifting our inefficient food aid policies toward the local purchasing that will strengthen long-term food security. Take action by sending a message of thanks to Administrator Shah today.