In the car on monday…

On the way back from Nairobi with some donated computers in the back, the driver drew my attention to a place by the road where there were a lot of people.
“Your government”, he said, ” and other governments, are giving away food”
There is a famine in this area at the moment due to failed rains and poor planning; many people are starving. Apparently some governments are giving away bags of maize to these people.
“Sometimes they bring yellow maize”, he told me, “I don’t want to do with that”.
I thought, at first, that he didn’t like the yellow imported corn. But that wasn’t it.

He explained his case like this:

They give only 2kg Maize to each person, once every week or two. Of the 2kg, he said:
“I will put it in the pot only once. It will feed me for one day. Maybe if they were giving 20kg…”
But that wasn’t all. He continued to explain that he thought this sort of aid would just make the hungry people go on thinking “free food, free food”, and not struggle to feed themselves.

He said all this unsolicited and, as far as I can tell, he’d figured it out entirely by himself.

He went on to speculate about other approaches to aid that, he thought, would work better. He told me the dry land here is capable of growing maize if it can be irrigated. There is, he said, water under the ground — just as we get water from our bore-hole at the college. He said the givernments should pay to dig bore-holes and install pumps so that the local people can water their maize.

At the time I was not sure that there would be enough ground water to keep irrigating crops. I’m still not certain. But it sounds like a great plan. (And more practical, though less romantic, than his next plan of digging a swimmin pool and then using the water for aggreculture after swimming in it).

It wasn’t until I got home and revisited the days events in the evening (I’ve a lot on my mind at the moment but I can’t really write about it here) that I had the following thoughts on the subject:

Those governments are not providing aid money to buy food, they are shipping surplus domestic crops which they have bought from their farmers to keep them from bankrupcy. There is no market for that maize, they couldn’t even sell it and use the money to dig a well in Ukambani.

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