Women tend to a crop of sweet potatoes in rural Tanzania.
Earlier this month, Howard Buffett—the philanthropist son of the “Sage of Omaha”—penned a Huffington Post article defending a project within the U.N.’s World Food Program called “Purchase for Progress” and offered his vision of an ideal future for farmers in the global south.
Rather than feeding the world’s hungry with food purchased from U.S. and European agriculturalists, that program nobly does business with farmers in developing nations, stimulating needy economies and providing food to hungry people at the same time. But its long-term goal, according to Buffett, is to give those farmers the education and training necessary to become permanent suppliers to the giants of global agribusiness—corporations that deal in industrialized, market-selected commodity crops, rather than the simple staple foods people need to feed themselves. —ARK
US shipping interests have lashed out at Purchase for Progress on the grounds that it cuts them—as well as large US grain traders like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill—out of the (quite profitable) supply chain for food aid. The argument is monstrous; it’s short form might read: “We transnational corporations demand a cut of the money intended to alleviate the hunger of desperately poor people.”
So here’s Buffett’s response to the shipping industry’s demand for its cut of the aid action:
[Purchase for Progress] provides training, access to credit and market access for poor farmers. The objective is to use WFP’s buying power as an interim step. It is expected that farmers will eventually forgo sales to WFP and in the future sell to companies who operate in their country like ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Maseca [the Mexican corn-flour giant part-owned by ADM], or Tiger brands. Once these farmers learn about contracts, quality requirements and delivery obligations while building a credit rating, they have found a permanent way out of poverty. They can eat three meals a day and send their children to school.