The Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP) has appealed to the World Food Programme to reconsider a food aid appeal recently issued for Malawi. The WFP issued the appeal, saying although Malawi has an overall national food surplus, half a million poor and vulnerable people will not be get enough food in coming months.
RHVP does not deny that nearly half of Malawi’s population is vulnerable to hunger. But it argues that the WFP should be looking at giving these people cash transfers, rather than food. RHVP argues that there is enough food in Malawi, that markets are functioning well, and that WFP itself has adopted policies in favour of cash transfers in appropriate circumstances.
In its Comment, RHVP’s argues that research shows that giving people cash has many benefits over providing just food, and that conditions in Malawi are ideal for cash transfers to work.
Related to this issue, as well as to our previous post on fertiliser subsidies vs cash transfers, IPS has an interesting article describing how farmers in Malawi are struggling — because there is an oversupply of food on the market. They are unable to get good prices for their produce because there is too much food, and too few buyers. It would be interesting to look into what impact the provision of food aid versus cash might have on markets, and thus on farmers like those quoted in the article.
The current edition of the American publication, The Nation, carries a very interesting feature recently on hunger in Africa. The article, by Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Jimenez and Annie Shattuck of Food First, critiques some agricultural policies in Africa, and particularly those followed by donors such as the Gates Foundation. They question the logic that says that hunger is the result of a shortage of food, arguing that “hunger isn’t a problem of production so much as one of distribution.” They take a detailed look at Malawi, quoting scholars who believe that “fertilizer subsidies are ‘masking food security problems for the long term'”. There is plenty of food for thought here, for journalists interested in investigating further.
The International Policy Centre has issued a One Pager looking at whether conditional cash transfers (CCTs) help lessen the impact of the current economic crisis on the poor. the paper, by Fabio Veras Soares, argues that CCTs can be useful, but must be part of a broader, long-term social protection strategy.