Finally, people are getting what should be done when there\’s a looming famine:
In Kenya, Save The Children is giving people vouchers to buy food in local markets. Several other aid groups are piloting similar schemes, some of them simply handing out cash to people who need food, or transferring it to their mobile phones using the country\’s wildly popular Mpesa mobile money system. At a stroke, this boosts businesses and cuts out the sometimes months-long lag between food aid being bought, shipped and distributed by the big international agencies.
\”If you had people needing extra food in the West, you wouldn\’t give them food parcels, you\’d pay money into their bank accounts,\” says a veteran British aid worker in Nairobi. \”The US gives food stamps. Why has it taken so long to come around to the same thinking in Africa?\”
It isn\’t that there\’s a general shortage of food. It\’s that some people don\’t have the money to buy the food that is there.
So, give them money, not wait 6 months to ship food from wherever.
Oh, and the reason this isn\’t done more generally?
Politics. The EU would prefer to send the food mountains, the US to send Mid-West food on US owned ships.
Would you believe it was actually George Bush the younger who tried to change this system and was rebuffed by Congress?