By shopping local, the UN puts food aid to work for African economies

By shopping local, the UN puts food aid to work for African economies

Food aid procured by the World Food Program in Tanzania has injected millions of dollars into the country's economy. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/theroadtothehorizon/2175363898/">Photo: WFP/Tom Haskell (Flickr)</a>
Food aid procured by the World Food Program in Tanzania has injected millions of dollars into the country's economy. Photo: WFP/Tom Haskell (Flickr)

The benefits of food aid go beyond feeding the hungry.

As humanitarian agencies like the UN World Food Program (WFP) rush to respond to famine and crisis in Africa, it's easy to forget where emergency food aid comes from. But according to an article this week on the blog allAfrica, local food aid purchases in Africa have played a major role in bolstering regional economies. For example, between October 2011 and March 2012, the WFP purchased nearly 100,000 metric tons of Tanzanian maize, and has injected an estimated $13 million into the country's transport industry in last six months alone.

"Over 300 lock trucks leave [the capital] each month," explained WFP's country director in Tanzania, Richard Ragan. "Through the port, WFP operates the movement of 140,000 metric tons of food per year for delivery to East and Central African countries. This means that we are the biggest commercial partner the port has."

In a previous blog post, we explained how the U.S. is the only country that continues to send domestically procured food aid, essentially preventing local markets from benefiting from large-scale food purchases.

Given evidence that food aid helps spur regional development, and eventually the need for less foreign assistance, it's time the U.S. rethinks its food procurement aid policies.

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