With U.S. funding, nongovernmental organizations have helped immunize millions of babies. Thanks to debt relief, most African children are in school, and in the last six years the number of people receiving HIV/AIDS medicines in developing countries has increased tenfold. Our country provides assistance through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. But the world has changed dramatically since then. It's time for the U.S. to get smarter about how it delivers foreign aid.
Why would any relief agency reject U.S. food aid? Beginning in 2009, CARE will do just that, forgoing $45 million a year in U.S. food aid because of its disagreement with monetization, the process of selling U.S. food abroad in order to raise needed cash for development projects and administrative costs. CARE maintains that the sale of U.S. food in the fragile markets of recipient countries competes with the sale of food produced by local farmers, causing prices to drop and lowering farmers’ income.
Fanny Makina, a farmer in Malawi, is tilling her plot of land with a hoe and spade. Next she will plant crops of corn, peanuts, squash, beans and cassava, and mark each row carefully with a stick. In most years, Makina harvests enough food for her family and has food left over to sell. Even in years of limited rainfall, she has income to buy fertilizer and other supplies.
Washington is devoting an unusual amount of attention to Africa this year, and this provides an opportunity to help reverse the trend toward more widespread hunger on that continent. President Clinton’s 12-day trip to Africa made us all more aware of promising economic and political developments there. He listened to Africans and made some promises.