Aid and trade in developing world

 

Madam, – With so much hollow debate about Third World aid it was salutary to read Sarah Carey’s column (Opinion, July 16th) on those who feel it has become part of the “problem”.

First, it must be recognised that aid is a lifeline for millions so how it is spent – or misspent – must be a focus of scrutiny. But many will rightly wonder how it could ever come to pass that the “lifebuoy” thrown to a drowning person could be seen as a “problem”.

Obviously, if the man is unable to remove himself from the buoyancy-aid and finds himself attached to it for life, then the “emergency services”, those responsible for the life-saving, must examine how they are going about their business.

Exhaustive analysis by myriad learned bodies should have set off the alarm bells that the international community is not learning the lessons from its mistakes. If it were we would see change and €150 billion in aid would not be lost to corruption annually.

Accountability, conditionality and efficiency are central to the future of aid. Ms Carey rehearses the argument that aid is a short- term solution but potentially a long-term problem. NGOs do not wish to be in place longer than necessary; it is up to world leaders to fill the void and co-ordinate global responses when disaster strikes. NGOs cannot prevent famine, epidemics or war. That is why a global concerted effort is required by governments.

With no prospect of consensus on how to save the sick and starving before our very eyes, hopes for dealing with humanitarian catastrophes of the future must be dim indeed. In the meantime, we would do well to hold on to our lifebuoys. – Yours, etc,

JOHN O’SHEA,

Goal,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Madam, – Sarah Carey (Opinion, July 16th) correctly argues that business has a crucial role in fighting poverty in Africa. If, however, businesses extract raw materials and export them raw, little will change.

There is an emerging sector of businesses in Africa that process high-quality finished goods suitable for the Irish market. Many have matured with support from development agencies. Both the farmers who grow the inputs and the workers who process them earn a livelihood, stimulating the local economy.

Value Added In Africa supports such businesses in reaching wholesale buyers in Ireland. While NGOs teach the poor to fish, and sometimes even to process the fish, we help them find a market – so their children can go to school. – Yours, etc,

CONALL O’CAOIMH,

Director,

Value Added In Africa,

Mary Street Little,

Dublin 7.

A chara, – Sarah Carey’s comments about G20 efforts to divert aid to agricultural development in the hope “broken countries” may be able to “one day feed themselves” misses the point completely. Impoverished people in the southern hemisphere possess insufficient power in the marketplace and therefore tend not to count in the “food equation”. Some 80 per cent of food commodities produced globally is consumed by the richest 20 per cent. Many farmers in the South are now committed to producing cash crops for export as well as for alternative energy. This is a direct result of the economic development and free-market trading orthodoxy foisted upon their states by international financial institutions among others.

This concentration on producing crops for export instead of domestic consumption has exacerbated the food crisis, which began in 2007, as for many in the southern hemisphere the price of food in the international marketplace is prohibitive. As usual, women and children are the worst affected. Almost 200 million children under five in the southern hemisphere suffer from stunted growth due to inadequate nutritional intake. Tens of millions of mothers are forced daily to do without to ensure their children are fed.

What is required is a complete change in the mindset which has led to agricultural production being viewed virtually exclusively in terms of the market-value of the commodities produced, with scant consideration of the nutritional needs of people, particularly those living in poverty. The pressure placed on states in the southern hemisphere to adopt a policy encouraging the production of cash crops for export also needs to be urgently revisited. Instead, resources should be made available for a system of agriculture and rural development that supports domestic food security needs and contributes positively to the livelihoods of local communities. – Is mise,

JUSTIN FREWEN,

West Road,

Westport,

Co Mayo.