Come One, Come All, There's Plenty of Misery to Go Around
September 9, 2005 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Meanwhile, Malawi Withers
After a poor harvest that brought in 1.3 million tons of maize (well short of the 2.1 million tons needed) the United Nation made an $88m (66 million pounds) food appeal for Malawi ten days ago but has not received a single penny or pledge of aid from any nation so far.

Woops, check that, Ireland's just pledged a million euros. Only 65 million to go.
posted by fenriq (19 comments total)
Well, one million Euros, but it's a start.
posted by brautigan at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2005

Oops, didn't even consider they might speaking in Euros. It is a start though, you're right.
posted by fenriq at 2:04 PM on September 9, 2005

Well, considering that Ireland only has four million people, it's not bad at all.
posted by ask me please at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2005

Are you talking about pounds as in british pounds, or british pounds of corn?

A bit confused.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2005

He means a million euros. Ireland is in the euro-zone.
posted by ask me please at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2005

Sorry, delmoi, I screwed up the currency, it should be Ireland has pledged a million Euros.

#1, Jessamyn, I need a little sweep up and edit in Aisle #44984!
posted by fenriq at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2005

This is another example of the failure of humanitarian society. The structure is set up in such a way that reaps the economic benefits of distance by a global economy to functionalize worldwide niches and the social benefits of not having to care what happens "over there."

Humanitarianism in the context of the society we have created is a band aid on a burn victim. We can treat the symptoms or we can address the cause, and restructure (or unstructured) to disable this inevitability.
posted by iamck at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2005


The Indians call it "maize".

'The majority of Malawians live on less than a dollar a day."

So not getting $88M shouldn't matter much.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2005

How about we just sent them 800,000 tons of corn? I'm pretty sure we have it right here in the US.

Can't eat euros.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:59 PM on September 9, 2005

One of my college roommates, a guy named Wisdom* was born in Malawi. His family moved to South Africa when he was young. For a black man to move to SA from there, that must be a tough place.

*he had sisters named Jane and Lucy. When he told me this, I asked "Are you angry?" he said, "Oh, yes."
posted by jonmc at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2005

Well, I could be convinced to chip in a bit, but I can't figure out how. Here's the UN Malawi development page, but no way to contribute. Googling hasn't done any good. Anyone know how someone who doesn't run a country can help? Seems to me that we could raise 65 mill pretty quickly if the people who wanted to contribute had some way to do so.
posted by dejah420 at 8:17 PM on September 9, 2005

Heard about this on BBC/PRI radio Thursday night. Heartbreaking, but the fact that they are so reliant on corn/maize is frustrating. It isn't native and it is a rather fickle crop, so they are paying the price. They would do well to switch to something better/native/heartier, but alas they refuse.

The radio segment also mentioned that they (Malawi) had raised money for the victims of Katrina. Quite touching.
posted by shoepal at 9:26 PM on September 9, 2005

Dejah420, Oxfam works in Malawi.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2005

Other places to donate --

World Relief:

Community-based orphan care funneled through the Presbyterian Church USA:

The later isn't famine aid, but care for children who are orphaned, usually because of AIDS/HIV.

posted by wfitzgerald at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2005

They would do well to switch to something better/native/heartier, but alas they refuse.

I'd like to know more details about this. It's probably much more complicated, since farmers aren't stupid - they usually have reasons for the choices they make.

Maize produces a lot more per acre than crops like sorghum or wheat, but it does need a lot of rain. I think about 400-500mm.

But why do they grow it there, if they aren't assured of a crop? Well, in many places governments and aid agencies will push crops that they think are better, through a variety of means, including subsidies and model farm programs. Also, I know that areas of Africa sell maize to Europe - this trade is essential for their trade balance, in the attempt to pay off national debts. It's also one of the reasons that some places cannot accept U.S. corn - it is GM, and would contaminate their crops, and they would loose their customers in Europe.

My point is, don't assume that it's just through random stubbornness - there are reasons, some good, some not good, that other people have made their choices. Attitudes that African farmers are just stubborn or ignorant has fueled over a century of stupid colonial and post-colonial development policy, and passing it on just makes things worse.

Policy has to work from a real understanding of what is happening and why people choose what they choose - which I clearly don't have (I'm just speaking from general knowledge of farming and government policy in other parts of Africa). But my first thought would be to try to find out (trying - google isn't being so helpful, maybe I'll switch to google-scholar).
posted by jb at 12:40 AM on September 11, 2005

Okay- Google Scholar is pretty cool -

A green revolution frustrated: lessons from the Malawi experience

Some more details on maize in Malawi. Nothing on why it was adopted to begin with (though maize was brought to Africa soon after 1492, so it could have been adopted and successfully grown for centuries), but it does discuss recent problems with maize cultivation - complicated story of dense population, declining maize yeilds, international pressure to liberalise markets and a devaluation of currency which has sent the price of fertilizer sky rocketing --
posted by jb at 12:51 AM on September 11, 2005

And from wikipedia

"The importance of regular rain is shown in many parts of Africa, where periodic drought regularly causes famine by causing maize crop failure; the older traditional African native millet (which is however less palatable than maize, and much less productive in good years) would have survived and produced a small crop in these conditions."

Government policy in Africa has tended to move against intercropping (different kinds of crops) in favour of monoculture - though intercropping does act as a buffer against the failure of the main crop.
posted by jb at 12:57 AM on September 11, 2005

Thanks jb. Point well made and well taken. I appreciate the effort to inform. I'm off to read those links. Thanks again!
posted by shoepal at 8:23 PM on September 11, 2005

I'm sorry - I didn't mean to come off so preachy. I don't know much about Malawi at all. (As a small country, it seems like it is much less studied than South Africa, Zimbabwe or Tanzania). It may be that millet would be a good option. There is a movement among scholars and some development people to try to work out solutions that are more sensitive to the local situations. But things are always very complicated, and often many interests (local, including bigger farmers against smaller, men versus women, national and international) compete.
posted by jb at 8:58 PM on September 11, 2005

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