In all the stories about Somalian pirates seizing (however briefly) the first U.S.-flagged ship in a couple of centuries, there is a lot about the drama of the piracy itself, and what the ship's mission was usually just gets a line or two, if that. It was carrying tons of food relief on behalf of the World Food Program. The cargo was destined for Uganda and Kenya and, ironically, Somalia. And the untold story is that many ships wouldn't be endangered and crews in jeopardy if we rethought our aid-to-Africa concepts a little.
We are spending far too much money on food aid, says Foreign Policy magazine. and not nearly enough on agricultural aid. The real hunger crisis is caused neither by high food prices nor slowed economic growth byt by persistent rural poverty in Africa and South Asia, where farmers lack the basic necessities for productive agriculture:
Fixing this dysfunctional imbalance is the true key to ending hunger. The good news: Support is growing in the U.S. Congress for the Global Food Security Act of 2009, a measure introduced in January by Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) that would authorize significantly larger U.S. investments in agricultural development, not just more food aid. At the G-20 meetings in London last week, U.S. President Barack Obama lent his White House endorsement to this approach, pledging to work with Congress to double U.S. financial support for agricultural development in poor countries to roughly $1 billion by 2010. This increase is still a modest budget number relative to the need, but it would represent a welcome change from recent policy trends.
It's the old "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" wisdom that we seem to need to keep relearning. Of course, that saying was improved by the unknown author who added, "and teach a man to sell fish, and he eats steak," but perhaps that is best left for another day.