Going beyond Food Relief Africa Experts Say Giving Seeds, Tools Strengthens War against Famine

By Robert M. Press, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 1990 | Go to article overview

Going beyond Food Relief Africa Experts Say Giving Seeds, Tools Strengthens War against Famine


Robert M. Press, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


AFRICA'S six civil wars are creating greater food shortages than are causedby drought conditions.

This assessment by a United Nations report released this month is hardlynew.

What is new is that, with no end in sight for most of these wars, some UNand private experts are calling for more than an endless stream of food reliefto countries with civil wars, such as Ethiopia and Sudan.

"We can't always think of supplying food and food and food," says TonyOwereko, assistant program manager of the United Nations Children's Fund(UNICEF) office in Nairobi. "There will be no end to the hunger or the supply.Donors need to supply items that can make (the Sudanese) develop their ownfoodstuffs."

Seeds, farming tools, and fishing nets are an important part of theassistance program directed by UNICEF for southern Sudan, both in rebel andgovernment-held areas.

"If we have to keep going back to Ethiopia and Sudan every two to threeyears (with food relief), we must be doing something wrong," says Gayle Smith,a relief and development expert with the Development Group for AlternativePolicies, a research organization in Washington.

Ms. Smith, who visited both Eritrea and Tigre in recent months, says foodaid reaching both countries is only barely able to keep people alive and able toremain on their land.

In emergencies, farm families first "eat their food reserves, then selltheir seeds, then their oxen, then their tools," Smith says. Then they migrateto seek food. Many people in Tigre and Eritrea "have gotten to the point ofselling their oxen," she says.

Once farmers abandon land, they become dependent on food relief. Foodproduction then drops, and food relief needs rise.

Until now, food aid donations have usually been more forthcoming than aid tohelp farmers farm, say private relief and development officials. …

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