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    Reducing the Middlemen in Food Aid

     

     
     

    In September this year, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it will begin buying surplus crops from low-income farmers in 21 African and Central American countries in a project that could transform the mechanics of food aid.

    Under the five-year US$76 million pilot project, the WFP will buy produce from more than 350,000 small farmers as opposed to the middlemen and large-scale farmers with which it has predominantly done business in the past. Willing farmers will be required to form into local collectives, and to set up a bank account in the group's name, while the UN will waive or relax the requirements for growers to provide surety bonds.

    By selling directly to the WFP it is expected that farmers will receive higher-than-normal prices and fragile economies will be better protected. In time, it is hoped that the farmers will also be connected to other local and regional markets.

    Charitable foundations established by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are funding the project, which targets some of the world's poorest countries, including Sierra Leone, Malawi, Ethiopia and El Salvador.