Development food aid in the 1990s has proven relatively ineffective as a way of combating poverty and increasing food consumption according to a new study. Authors of the ODI report 'The Future of Food Aid - a Policy Review' argue that financial aid is in most cases more efficient than food aid as an instrument for funding food assistance activities like school meals or food for work or in providing balance of payment or budgetary support for general development.
Programme food aid which is provided to governments for sale has been found to be a particularly ineffective and blunt instrument for these purposes. At the same time, the study recognises that food aid can sometimes be useful in a very limited way: as targeted assistance to poor, highly food-insecure people in situations of poorly functioning fragile markets and serious institutional weakness.
The following are among the study recommendations:
- WFP should concentrate its operations and work on emergency and relief logistics. This would require a redefined role with appropriate resources and professional capacity to become the UN's humanitarian and rehabilitation logistics and food support agency.
- The UK and other EC member states might be released from obligations to provide bilateral food aid as part of the EU's contribution under the Food Aid Convention but would instead accept responsibilities under a Code of Conduct for participating in responses to humanitarian crises and supporting WFP in its redefined role.
Edward Clay, Nita Pillai and Charlotte Benson