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Food Aid, With a Twist

This is a joint posting with Rebecca Schutte
Is purchasing food aid locally the answer to higher global food prices and the inefficiencies associated with imported food aid? The World Food Program (WFP), the Bill and Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations seem to think so. While donors and international organizations have been purchasing food aid in recipient countries for years, the idea got a new boost in late September with the "Purchase for Progress (P4P)" initiative. The idea is simple: Rather than import food aid from the U.S. or Europe, WFP will purchase food commodities for distribution within the same country or region. As Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, explained, "Purchase for Progress is a win-win -- we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops." The program will be piloted in twenty-one countries in 2008/2009, fourteen of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.