Apr 29, 2008

AAI combating global hunger

A commentary by Jeff Allen from One World was recently featured on Yahoo News. He talks about how individual NGOs, such as AAI are taking responsibility to aid the hungry populations in the parts of the world where we/they are already working. Our director, Al Santoli was also quoted in Allen's commentary.

In powerful overview of the situation, our friend Al Santoli at the Asia America Initiative summed it up this way:

"A new Cold War is taking shape, around energy and food. The world intelligentsia has been asleep at the wheel. While we rage over global warming, global hunger has swept under the radar."
But as Al Santoli pointed out to me the other day, even $1 billion -- divided by 100 million people -- is only $10 per person-in-need worldwide. And that's just the beginning of the crisis, and it assumes a fundraising goal that the WFP is unlikely to meet. Individual NGOs are taking responsibility for aiding the hungry populations in the parts of the world where they are already working. The Asia America Initiative, for example, has a long-established presence in the Sulu province of the Philippines, where they've been doing peace building and development work since 2002. Al told me that $10-50 can feed a family in the region for a short period of time. About $100 can buy the seeds and build the irrigation needed for them to be able to feed themselves long into the future. Right now, both initiatives are needed, and AAI is helping to make the links between Americans who want to help and those who need help far away.
For the complete article, see here. 

Apr 14, 2008

What's driving up food prices?

Jehea thinks the casuses are:
  1. Global shifting of diet: Shifting to meat consumption, which requires more grains, causes shortage in food for people.
  2. Increased interest to biofuel issues
  3. Demand for grains is increasing.
  4. Climatic conditions: Recent droughts in Australia, Central Europe, and many other places in the world.
  5. Low stocks: Growing grains tend to be seasonal and time consuming. Therefore the stocks tend to be quite low.
  6. Crisis in Financial Markets: Illiquidity created by the crisis in financial market makes investment difficult. As a result, investment is not reached to the community which concentrates in agriculture. Therefore, harvest is not expected.


Robert Zoellick, President of World Bank, Opening Press briefing at the WB-IMF meetings 2008.
Davao Norte farmers rue high costs, low gains from farming, By Frinston Lim Mindanao Bureau, Inquirer.net, April 06, 2008

Apr 11, 2008

Solutions to the Philippines Rice Crisis?

Just to make sure that I'm not stealing anyone's thunder, I want all of you to know that JEN (not I) came across this article from UPI Asia Online written by a Mong Palatino, a Filipino youth activist commenting on the government's proposed solutions to the current rice crisis. Here is a good portion of the article:
MANILA, Philippines 

Earlier, the government had proposed the reduction of tariffs to ease prices of agricultural products, especially rice. A Cabinet member is appealing to the public to reduce consumption of rice or to replace rice with other root crops. Restaurants are asked to serve a half-cup of rice to their customers. The private sector is enjoined to practice corporate farming or to ensure that employees are given rice subsidies through planting of rice by the country's biggest corporations.

Public universities are told to open their gymnasiums so they can be used as rice warehouses. Agricultural colleges are encouraged to increase farm demonstration laboratories to bolster the administration's food security and stability program.

The military was ordered to make military trucks and aerial logistics available for the delivery and distribution of rice around the country. Police forces were mobilized to guard against rice smuggling. The government cancelled the licenses of rice traders to weed out unscrupulous merchants. Agricultural officials are conducting spot inspections of rice warehouses to monitor the rice supply in the country.

President Arroyo reported that she has succeeded in persuading Vietnam and other countries from Southeast Asia to continue exporting rice to the Philippines.

Is the government doing enough to avert a full-blown rice and food crisis? Many people are not satisfied with the proposed action plan of the government. Senators are looking for a master plan which will comprehensively tackle the modernization of Philippine agriculture.

Many people believe the government failed to act quickly when Thailand and Vietnam restricted rice exports to the Philippines a few years ago. What was done to raise rice production in the Philippines? What support programs were implemented to boost productivity of Filipino farmers? The government-sponsored food summit was a belated effort of the government to compensate for its initial failure to draft a sustainable agricultural program.

Accusing the people of wasteful consumption of rice is unfair. The Senate president was right when he asserted, "There is nothing wrong with our eating habits, but there is with the government's spending priorities." Another lawmaker also argued, "The problem is not wasteful consumption but inadequate consumption. How can you waste rice when there is no rice to waste in the first place?"

Opposition parties are proposing the immediate release of local calamity funds for farmers. They also suggest that local governments should establish a food security early warning mechanism to ensure targeted distribution of rice.

The opposition believes that reactivation of peace talks with rebels will allow the unimpeded cultivation, planting, tending and harvesting of crops in conflict areas. Finally, creation of special investigative and prosecutorial teams is proposed to run after hoarders and corrupt elements in the agriculture department.

The government's proposed solutions to the rice and food crisis can be described as palliative. They do not address the root of the problem. The government continues to endorse rice importation and agricultural liberalization despite its failure to revive Philippine agriculture.

In fact, peasant groups explain that the country's growing dependence on rice imports is the reason behind the worsening rice crisis. A senator notes that rice importation "symbolizes the government's neglect of the local agriculture sector." An NGO adds, "Rice importation has not resulted in lowered rice prices, but worsened the bankruptcy of farmers and even placed the country in greater food insecurity."

Peasant groups want the government to increase local procurement of rice instead of relying on imports. The government, not rice traders, should buy more rice and other agricultural products from farmers. This will improve farmers' income while preventing greedy merchants from exploiting poor farmers.

Land-use conversions of rice lands should be stopped. Food crops should be prioritized over cash crops and biofuel crops. The bloated funding for debt and war spending should be realigned to food production. The rice cartel should be dismantled. Rice smugglers should be charged with economic sabotage.

Finally, the rice crisis today is an opportunity to review the land reform programs of the government in the past four decades. Landlessness remains a fundamental problem in Philippine society. Agricultural production is still backward. Perhaps it is time to implement a genuine agrarian reform. A sound agricultural system will propel the Philippine economy. At the same time, it will ensure that all Filipinos have access to food at all times.
**Read the complete article

Personally I think the government's agricultural reform is too little and too late. Self-sufficiency should be the first priority. Instead of over-relying on imports, they should try investing in the domestic rice trade and develop locations like Mindanao, where there is so much potential to grow and mass produce rice. All these farmers need is an incentive to grow–to be able to make a profit AND feed their own families at the same time. No straight-headed farmer is going to work the land if they don't reap any benefits right?

It's definitely a win-win solution for the Philippines if they invest smartly in their own agricultural sector. This would mean less foreign dependency, more supply and affordable rice for the nation, and a chance to stimulate the local economies of neglected (but resourceful) regions of the Philippines.

Apr 9, 2008

Short and Sweet Video

Hola everyone! It's Mindy again, Jen (fab intern#2) and Hanayo (fab intern#3) seem to be pretty shy about blogging on here. I'm slowly teasing them out of their shell, they'll be blogging and talking about all kinds of stuff in no time!

So I've put together a video using field footage from our DPIS (Development for Peace in Sulu) initiative in 2005 and 2006. Sulu province is the circled area in the southern tip of the Philippines. See map:

Basically, Sulu has experienced years of conflict between Muslim insurgent groups– Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro National Liberation Front– and government troops. Consequently, it left Sulu severely underdeveloped with their educational system in shambles. 

So since 2002, Asia America Initiative has attempted to revitalize the educational system in Sulu through:
  • Providing educational equipment and supplies to a dozen "model" public schools
  • Training teachers and school administrators
  • Providing learning and information technology, such as computers and educational television
  • Initiating programs such as the "Adopt-a-Classroom," which links individuals from other parts of the Philippines and the U.S. to contribute educational materials
Well, here's the video:

Click here for more information on Asia America Initiative and our DPIS project.

Apr 3, 2008

Free Rice!

Hello everyone!

I am Mindy, one of the fabulous 3 new spring interns for Asia America Initiative. Coming to D.C. from the Bay Area in California is definitely a huge change for me. I'm still getting used to the freezing temperature here..brrrrr, and am also starting to adapt to a more "serious" city. But I am super thankful that I actually get to walk to places now, instead of being over-dependent on my car. Because you know in Cali, not having a car is like not having legs. 

Being the big food person as I am, I've been pretty impressed with the local eateries here, especially at Dupont Circle. They've got some fine thin crust pizza and italian cuisine! However, being a true Taiwanese, I have yet to come across a teaplace that sells tapioca/boba/pearl drinks!! Wussup with that? Are they all hiding from me? I'm desperately craving that stuff, so please if anyone knows of some place with good tea drinks, hit me up!

Anyway, enough with the self-introduction...Today is day 6 for me at AAI and we already have some exciting and important campaigns to work on. First, as many of you may know, there is a pretty severe rice shortage in Southeast Asia, and the Philippines in particular, is getting hit hard. See article .

Jen (fab intern #2), Hanayo (fab intern #3), and I created a cause on Facebook today called "Help Mindanao farmers grow rice" to rally support and spread awareness among our friends and communities about this global issue. Due to regional instability and mismanagement and corruption in the rice industry, these poor farmers have been discouraged to grow anything because of the lack of profit from harvests and unfair trading practices. It's such a shame because Mindanao has such huge potential to mass produce rice– it is one of the only areas in SE Asia with year round growing season, ample water and no tropical storms. 

Helping Mindanao farmers grow rice looks like a great solution to me, because 1) they can be self-sufficient in growing their own rice and not be dependent on foreign imports, 2) economic development from the rice trade will strengthen the peace process and deter armed conflicts in the Muslim region, 3) it will ultimately prevent political and social unrest in the whole nation. So they really need all the help they can get to mobilize themselves to produce rice for their country. 

So what can you do to help out?

Specifically, you could:
  • Join our cause on Facebook- "Help Mindanao Farmer Grow Rice"-and donate what you can. 
  • Be a member of our Facebook group- Asia America Initiative
Generally, you could:
  • Log on to freerice.com and hone your vocab skills to donate free rice to needy refugees!
  • Not waste rice...get half-portion rice meals if you know you can't finish. Greediness and wastefulness is not attractive as my mom would say..
That's all for now kids, stay tuned for more later!