Foreign Aid, Farms and Poverty Reduction
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” ISAIAH 2:4
Recently Bread for the World Institute came out with a new policy paper titled, “Reforming Foreign Aid.” The Institute is the branch of Bread for the World that provides analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. They look at the big picture issues and not surprisingly have come to the conclusion that responding to the global crises requires, “establishing long-term development goals, especially increasing agricultural productivity in poor countries.” The key to getting there is through reforming a foreign aid system that has not been substantially changed since the 1960’s.
When you give a person a fish, says the old adage, they eat for a day but teach a person to fish and they eat for life. We must look at the assistance we give to our brothers and sisters in the developing world in terms of long term development and the ability to build up their agricultural systems that were stymied by farm policies . When people in developing countries have the knowledge and the tools they can grow their own food. Evidence shows small rural farms are essential in developing economic systems and poverty reduction. Climate change, infrastructure, knowledge, technology and market viability are all important contributors to an economically successful rural agriculture. It requires a wide angle lens to develop a system that will decrease and perhaps eliminate poverty in years to come.
When people have the basic resources to live, they are less likely to search for alternative and sometimes violent means to feed their children. As pointed out in the briefing paper, “enabling people in poor countries to acquire the skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty is not only the right thing to do, but will serve the U.S. national interest by creating a more secure and stable world.” Recently 84% of retired military officers polled agreed with that assessment. Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, has also called for non-military foreign affairs programs to combat instability and he understands we live in a closely connected and interdependent world today that requires “far-sighted actions with long term benefits.”
With the global food crises creating more instability, starvation and increased poverty, now is the time to think about long term solutions to complex and immediate problems. With a Congress that thinks in terms of election years, it requires that the American public weigh in on discussions of policy to ensure any substantial change where swords are turned into plowshares.
Robin Stephenson is a field organizer based in Portland, Oregon for Bread for the World
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