Thursday, July 21, 2005

Niger vs. Center-Left Western Preoccupations

While the Bliar government is praising itself for having done such a good job for Africa with the G8 debt relief and blasts the CAP as hurting Africa, and the US pro-Democrat blogosphere is a-buzz with every aspect of minute details of 'Plamegate', the agent identity leak case that sprung from the scandal of the Niger yellowcakes story, there is a real disaster building in - yeah, Niger, Africa.

In Southern Niger, some 2.5 million people are hit by famine after their food supplies ran out. But generosity isn't forthcoming - altough the money needed is relatively small:

With some 2.5 million people living on less than one meal a day, the UN has raised its emergency appeal from $16 million to $30 million, but so far, only $10 million has been pledged by donors.

First help came from the French - but only a French NGO:

The airlift from the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Réunir to Maradi consisted of 16 tons of oil, sugar and plumpy'nut (a highly nutritious paste for young children). A further airlift will take place over the weekend with 40 tons of millet and 28 tons of oil.

With this backdrop, the 'debate' over the CAP (the EU common agricultural policy that includes subsidies) is truly sickening. On one hand, as explained here at EuroTrib, arguing for free trade in food with Africa is disingenious, as African states currently have special agreements with Europe that ensure preferential access for their products to the European market, while those who would stand to benefit from abolishing the CAP would be second-tier states with advanced industrial agricultures (in the hands of the local elite) like Brazil and Argentina, with Africa losing out.

On the other hand, even if the former wouldn't be true, isn't something terribly wrong with the idea of Africa selling more food to Europe while millions of Africans starve?

Of course, most of those starving probably couldn't afford to buy even food produced by other Africans. But if Europe (or the US or Japan etc.) wants to help that, subsidizing food redistribution within Africa would be the best idea, not transporting some food 10,000 kilometres from there to here and some other (as aid) 10,000 kilometres back.

In the meantime, you can help out the UN in place of your governments, and donate.

UPDATE: As Disillusioned Kid writes in the comments, my speculations proved more than right: see his link, or Lenin's Tomb's take, this food crisis was caused by sharply rising food prices after Western-induced free-market reforms, prices a lot of people couldn't afford...

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