Kenyan Farmers’ Fate Caught Up in U.S. Aid Rules (NYTimes)

Kenyan Farmers’ Fate Caught Up in U.S. Aid Rules

This story (Kenyan Farmers’ Fate Caught Up in U.S. Aid Rules) shows many of the things right and wrong with international development as it is currently carried out today. Two major reasons for the failure of international aid to produce expected results are the inefficient use of funds and the lack of investment in strategies/technologies that would increase chances of long-term success.

  • The U.S. government, by law, is prevented from purchasing food aid from foreign countries and must instead ship foodstuffs from the States to the location where humanitarian assistance is needed. The US is also prohibited from paying duties on imports of these items.

    Cost savings from buying locally

    The United Nations World Food Program, with contributions from other nations, was able to obtain 75 percent more corn [emphasis added] to feed Africa’s hungry from 2001 to 2005 by purchasing it in Kenya, Zambia and Uganda, rather than shipping it from the United States

  • Across Africa, the United States is more likely to give people a fish — caught in America — that feeds them for a day than to teach them to fish for themselves. Since last year, for example, the United States has donated $136 million worth of American food to feed the hungry in Kenya, but spent $36 million on agricultural projects to help Kenyan farmers grow and earn more.

  • In talking about the USAID-funded World Vision project in Northern Kenya, the article mentions the efforts of Daniel Mwebi, a Kenyan engineer who managed the project.

    He said he had been determined to avoid the mistakes of earlier aid projects that relied on heavy earth-moving equipment and diesel-run pumps that required costly fuel, expertise and maintenance.

    So he designed a very basic system and trained the Turkana in the masonry, carpentry and welding skills they needed to keep it running. The earthen irrigation systems — built in two United States-financed projects — are powered only by gravity and the sweat of the local people.

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A related editorial in the Times: A Surer Way to Feed the Hungry (August 4, 2007)

Administration officials also note that food purchased here usually takes four months to reach its destination. Food purchased locally takes days.