Famine in Niger again

Yes, we\’ve been here before and yes, we know the solution. Sadly, not everyone seems to have got it yet.

The paradox of this year\’s worsening food shortage is the presence of plentiful quantities of food in many markets throughout the country. \”There is a relatively good flow of food into the markets in Niger, yet prices remain extremely high,\” said Ferrera. \”Since 2008 there has been a lot of speculation and tension in the markets. There has been good food production in neighbouring countries, yet prices are abnormally high.\”

As Amartya Sen pointed out (and in doing so secured himself a Nobel) modern famines rarely happen because of a lack of food. They\’re because of a lack of purchasing power to secure that food.

The answer is thus to provide the purchasing power. Simply give money to the poor and starving. The great joy of such a scheme is that it\’s actually very easy and very fast to implement, unlike trying to ship in food aid which can take 8-10 months.

As to this:

The potential for high food prices to cause food insecurity and famine has been criticised in recent years. Speculation in agricultural commodities on the international financial markets since 2006 has been blamed for price increases of up to 300% for some basic foodstuffs, including rice and cereals

As we know, it wasn\’t the speculators, it was the idiots who insisted that food be put into cars instead of people. Yes, FoE, Greenpeace, this is your fault.

2 thoughts on “Famine in Niger again”

  1. Is it really that easy to get money to the poorest people in a nation?

    Presumably you get a big pile of cash, then give a tenth each to ten people you think you can trust, who give a tenth each to people they think they can trust, and so on until the poor find that most of the money stayed with the middlemen.

    Or is there a more effective way?

  2. Hum… you were doing so well. Shame about the final snark sentence.

    While biofuels are one of the structural causes behind the food price crisis they are far from the only one – others include lack of investment in agriculture, the impact of dumping, shifting consumption patterns in emerging economies and more… The impact of biofuels is largely confined to central america where there was a particular price spike linked to the US ethanol system.

    In Niger – not so much the problem.

    But cash transfers are a good way of dealing with this kind of crisis – partly because they allow assistance to be focussed on those in need and in general people do spend money on what they most need in these situations. Save the Children have been doing some good work on this front.

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