Looking long term

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 January, 2009, 12:00am

Aid workers are cautious about giving free food away for fear of creating a dependency on food aid, according to Chris Wong Wah-shun, a development aid worker based in Jiangxi province .

'Food aid is vital in emergency situations, where it can be the difference between life and death. For example, when China was hit by a massive snowstorm last year, we allocated free rice to the villagers to get through the hard time,' said Ms Wong, who has worked for an international Christian charity organisation for two years.

'But generally we do not agree with giving food away, because it is not sustainable. Instead of giving people fish, you teach them how to catch fish. Giving them free food might lead to dependency on food aid.'

In one of her project sites at Longgang, a town of 10,000, villagers are poor but they can feed themselves. 'They are farmers with annual incomes of around 1,300 yuan (HK$1,470). Their living standard is far from comfortable, but at least they grow enough food. It is their basic infrastructure and facilities that need development. So our project focuses on building clean water and irrigation system, renovating schools and teaching farmers how to grow crops effectively,' said Ms Wong.

'There is no 'best way' to eradicate poverty. But I think identifying the needs of the recipients is most important. Emergency food aid is a short-term remedy. It ought to be followed by long-term development.'