Food aid for Africa: “From America; for America”

Owen writes:

The US imports food aid to Ethiopia.  It is bought from American farmers and shipped by boat to Djibouti, then brought by road to where it is needed in Ethiopia.  The cost of all this works out at $568 per metric tonne.  Here in Addis Ababa, today’s market price of wheat is $489 per metric tonne.  It is cheaper out of the capital.  So America’s generosity could buy 16% more wheat if it were bought locally.  From that difference alone, another 190,000 people could be given a full ration of food for four months.  Furthermore, buying the food locally would increase the incomes of farmers either in Ethiopia or in neighbouring countries and the improve livelihoods of other parts of the economy (e.g. haulage companies) needed to make the agriculture market work.  Their livelihoods, which are undermined by imported food aid, would be improved if the food were bought locally.  If there is sufficient supply response among local farmers (which there probably would be) so it does not have to be imported, then the generous aid would also provide $50 million of much needed foreign currency for Ethiopia.

This is not possible at the moment because American legislation requires that food aid be bought in the US, that  50 percent of commodities be processed and packed in the US before shipment, and that 75 percent of food aid managed by USAID and 50 percent of the food aid managed by the US Department of Agriculture be transported in “flag-carrying” US-registered vessels. The result is that only 40% of money spent on food aid by the US actually goes towards buying food; the rest goes to US transport companies. . . .

Corporate welfare under the guise of helping the poor Africans? Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Read some of Owen’s suggested alternatives. (See comments too.)

Links of the Day: Blogging, translation and the world

NT Wright – “God in Public: Reflections on Faith and Society” Speech at the London School of Economics 14 Feb 2008.

Lingamish (a bible translator in Mozambique) updates his “about” page and lists his 20 most popular posts from the previous year. What are people looking for in a blog? Wacky, humorous and a touch of irreverence. What we all really want is a touch of the tabloids from someone who seems a little bit like us, or maybe a little smarter and more righteous. He is a bible translator in Africa after all. His list says it all and is worth at least a quick look.

John Hobbins discusses bible translation – responding to Karen Jobe’s article . “Faithful translation is about taking risks, not avoiding them . . .

The Bible, I’ve noticed, is a resolutely non-superficial text. A faithful translation of it will be taxing on a contemporary reader in ways it was not for its original readers. It is a classic case of “no pain, no gain.”

Jobes’s full paper is here.

I always like to say, “It’s easy to get the main messages of the Bible. It’s a lot harder when you get to the the details.”

[There is something here for everyone, but unless you are in the bible translation world, there are some insider terms and acronyms. Feel free to list acronym or term you want some explanation for in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.]

On a separate note, a new English translation of the LXX (Greek OT) is available free on-line.

Chris Tilling reviews what looks like an interesting book by Tom Sine of “Mustard Seed Conspiracy” fame – The New Conspirators.

A new paradigm in development economics

Until very recently, if you spent anytime thinking about development policy, the chances are that you fell into one of three groups. One group believes the problem with developing countries is lack of resources. So the solution is a vast increase in foreign aid. A second group believes the real problem is lack of incentives. So the solution is more and better markets. The third group thinks the problem is lousy governments, so the answer lies with improved governance. . .

But there is something new afoot. Increasingly, some people are saying the right way to approach development policy is to start with the view that we actually don’t know where the problems lie, to acknowledge that the key problems may differ from setting to setting, and to adopt an explicitly experimental attitude to policy selection and formulation so that you can learn about the environment in which you operate. In this approach, monitoring and evaluation are key, as you want to pull back from mistakes and improve policies over time. Indeed, you build the monitoring into the policy process itself so that learning becomes part and parcel of it–rather than something you leave to your researchers or economists. This way of thinking about development policy is radically different from the three schools I summarized above, as it admits much greater diversity and heterodoxy. It is humble about the extent of our knowledge but optimistic about our ability to learn.

Thanks again to Michael Kruse who has great posts almost every day.