Sunday, December 02, 2007

United Nations and World Bank Advice Leads to Food Shortages in Africa

See the New York Times December 2, 2007 article Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts by Celia W. Dugger
■ “Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid.”
■ “But this year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe.”
■ “Farmers explain Malawi’s extraordinary turnaround — one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa — with one word: fertilizer.”
■ “Over the past 20 years, the World Bank … pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers.”
■ “The country’s successful use of subsidies is contributing to a broader reappraisal of the crucial role of agriculture in alleviating poverty in Africa and the pivotal importance of public investments in the basics of a farm economy: fertilizer, improved seed, farmer education, credit and agricultural research.”
■ “Desperate to feed their families, they could not afford to let their land lie fallow or to fertilize it. Over time, their depleted plots yielded less food and the farmers fell deeper into poverty. Malawi’s leaders have long favored fertilizer subsidies, but they reluctantly acceded to donor prescriptions... In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, the World Bank pushed Malawi to eliminate fertilizer subsidies entirely.”
■ “Here in Malawi, deep fertilizer subsidies and lesser ones for seed, abetted by good rains, helped farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007”
■ “The harvest also helped the poor by lowering food prices and increasing wages for farm workers.”


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