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The benefits of food aid

By Halle Hunt
web posted November 2, 2020

It’s July 20, 2011. You check the news and see that the UN has declared a famine in southern Somalia. You look at the devastating statistics and see over 3 million people are directly impacted with about half a million children already malnourished. But how could this have happened? A devastating drought hit Somalia - eliminating almost every domestic food producer. What could be a possible solution? You glance back at the news and hear talk of “food aid”.

The argument to abolish food aid is introduced in Joey Kusnadi’s essay: “Why We Should Abolish Food Aid”. This essay speaks on valid points regarding the danger of long-term food aid and its detrimental impacts to developing countries’ economies. However, these claims are made without recognition of instances in which food aid is truely beneficial to developing countries. Kusnadi’s essay has an overwhelming focus on the detriments of long-term food aid without giving attention or merit to short-term food aid. This, therefore, gives insufficient reason to state the claim that food aid should be abolished.

Although Kusnadi provided a wonderful essay with many credited arguments about the counter-productivity of developed countries offering food aid to developing countries, there were some key factors left out of the said essay. The essay begins with a brief definition of food aid to clarify the subject: a surplus food donated, usually by the government, to people in need in developing countries. It is true what Kusnadi says, that “[food aid] cripples the economy”, however, this claim is left on a very broad scale. In actuality, food aid only cripples an economy when it is used as a long-term solution to food insecurity in a country, is not requested by the country, and/or targets certain food products. This is because the country grows dependent on this aid and its domestic farmers and food producers are left with a lower demand to satisfy - resulting in a falling economy. The reason I narrow Kusnadi’s claim is because there are many instances in which food aid is indeed beneficial to a country.

Many times, a country is most in need of food aid when domestic food production is simply not a sustainable option for that specific period. This is most commonly seen when a natural disaster hits a developing country, leaving their domestic food producers out of commission. As introduced in my first paragraph for example, in 2011, Somalia was deeply hurt by an intense drought leading to their dependence on food aid for a time. At this point, it wasn’t a matter of a developed country simply giving away their food surplus because they had extra, but it was because millions of citizens in Somalia would die without it. This shows that in instances when countries wouldn’t normally have their regular domestic food production and need short-term aid to ensure fewer lives lost, hospitalized, and permanently harmed (i.e. long-term malnutrition in children), food aid is a valid and beneficial option that should not be completely abolished.

In summary, it can be seen that, although Kusnadi brings forth a very strong argument in favor of abolishing food aid, the claim’s broad nature lends itself susceptible to problematic tendencies that could lead to the lack of attention to countries facing extreme famine. Therefore, although I agree that long-term general food aid can be detrimental to developing countries and their economies, the abolishment of food aid would be catastrophically damaging to countries that face events like natural disasters that require them to have food aid. Food aid policies should embrace change in efforts to preserve developing countries’ economies, but, in light of the possible lives lost without it, food aid cannot be outright abolished. ESR

This is Halle Hunt’s first contribution to Enter Stage Right. © 2020 Healle Hunt

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