Report reveals Sahel's free market famine


US researchers released a report at the weekend which blames free market development policies for increasing hunger and poverty in the Sahel. Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? finds the region reeling from a free market famine.
In 2005, Niger's poverty hit the news when a famine was blamed on locust invasion and drought, but Niger did not face an exceptional drop in production in the 2004-2005 agricultural year, according to Oakland Institute researchers.
"The 2005 crisis in Niger highlighted the tragic limits and shortcomings of market-based food security policy," said Oakland Institute senior fellow and report co-author Frederic Mousseau.
"While there was food in the markets and Niger continued food exports in 2005, domestic food prices skyrocketed by almost 150-200 per cent. While 63 per cent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, in July 2005 a Nigerien farmer paid more for more a kilogram of millet at the local market than a European or a US consumer paid for a kilogram of rice in the supermarket," Mr Mousseau continued.
The report found that these high food prices resulted in a reduction in non-food expenditures such as health and education, sale of livestock and even land, jeopardising the future of the population and driving more people into poverty and landlessness.
"The design of development policies has silently accepted the sacrifice of a whole segment of the region's population - primarily young children from the poorest families," warned Oakland Institute executive director Anuradha Mittal.
"Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation is a reminder that there is more than enough food on the planet to feed every human being and to meet the standards set in international human rights law," Ms Mittal noted.

Thanks to the Morning Star for this report.