There are many charities that work towards solving hunger issues in Africa by donating not only to provide ready-made food but also to provide resources to farmers and people with experience in agriculture to grow crops to feed local populations. There are certain crops that grow well in Africa and types of plants which are much easier to grow in these harsh climates. By giving farmers and community members education as well as the seeds and tools that they need to create agricultural opportunities in communities within Africa, charities like the Red Cross, UNICEF and others are creating opportunities in African communities to create ongoing food production.

One of the biggest barriers to an ongoing agricultural supply line in Africa is barriers that are put in place on regional and intercountry trade. It isn’t as simple as we find it in North America for African communities to trade amongst one another in order to get the resources that they need. With intense droughts and shortages on water in some areas as well as harmful insects and other challenges that face agricultural communities, trade needs to happen in order for communities to self sustain and get the supplies that they need to succeed. As such the UN and African Union is strongly lobbying to remove some of these barriers to allow communities across Africa the chance that they need to trade amongst one another and boost agriculture as a whole to create self-sustaining communities.

A second major factor that contributes to the distribution of food and trade involves the roads and transportation across Africa. With so many poor roads and unsafe roads, charities may need to look into the future at increasing security as well as improving overall road conditions to allow for distribution and better imports and exports all over the continent. Currently the transport costs and logistics of transporting food and agricultural produce across Africa is very difficult to contend with and until changes are made communities will be left under the some of the transport cartels which are in power and in charge of imports and exports for communities.

With a big focus on education, providing resources, opening up borders and improving road conditions and road safety, charities can disburse their money not only to provide immediate relief but also provide relief in a format that will create self-sustaining communities, allowing charities to make an impact across other areas of Africa.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joelle O’Reilly-Hyland is a member of the advisory board of Ubuntu Africa, a non profit organization that helps HIV children in Africa. Together with her husband, Paul, Joelle O’Reilly-Hyland started a triathlon team to raise more than $100K for Ubuntu. She is also an active supporter of many other education and womens’ rights based organizations like Educate Girls Globally. Joelle is named top professional women of the year by Worldwide Who’s Who magazine. Joelle and Paul live in Manhattan, NY with their three children, Oliver, Ogden, and Louisa. Follow Joelle O’Reilly-Hyland on Twitter.

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Luxuries vs. Basic Needs

20 September 2009

By definition, a person is poor who does not have access to basic necessities, which in capitalist societies usually means they cannot afford these basic necessities.

I believe these basic necessities include sufficient food, clothes, shelter, health care, retirement, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance. The sum of the cost of those basic necessities is the cost of living. If a person or family’s income (after deducting job-related costs such as education, uniforms and transportation) is less than the cost of living, then that person or family is poor.

Unfortunately, the poverty line in places like the United States is set too low. For instance, the poverty line in the United States for a family of four is about $22,000 per year. Many people have incomes higher than that but cannot afford the true cost of living which is the cost of all of those basic necessities. (If you think you can accurately estimate how much the true cost of living in the US is, please do so in this thread.)

On the other side of the coin, many people who receive assistance from charities or government programs may buy or own luxuries, which are goods and services beyond those basic necessities. They may not truly be poor, but qualify as poor under the government’s flawed way of measuring poverty, and take advantage of the system. Or they may be people who are poor but still choose to stupidly use their funds to buy luxuries instead of the basic necessities. In both cases, this misuse of of assistance hurts anti-poverty campaigns.

Simply put, if funding from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty government programs is being used to fund the purchase of luxuries rather than basic necessities, it is being misused. If it is being used to let a person enjoy luxuries rather than help the person avoid or escape poverty, then it is being misused. This is a terrible fraud against the charitable people or taxpayers who provide the funding, and it is a terrible disservice to the truly poor people who are being denied the helping hand that is meant to help them get what they need.

So it is very important to understand the difference between basic necessities and luxuries. To further make the distinction, I will provide a list of luxuries:

  • cable television
  • jewelry
  • candy, soda and other foods with no nutritional value
  • cigarettes
  • alcohol
  • recreational drugs
  • video games and video game systems
  • any cellphone besides perhaps the cheapest model
  • air conditioning (except where heat poses a health risk)
  • high-speed internet
  • automobile (when more affordable public transportation is available, or when a more stylish, more expensive automobile is purchased instead of an equally effective but less expensive alternative)
  • cosmetic surgery
  • fancy, expensive clothes (as opposed to basic clothes)
  • music CDs and CD players (for entertainment purposes)
  • DVDs (for entertainment purposes)
  • decorations
  • dining out

If anyone receiving help from anti-poverty charities or anti-poverty programs buys luxuries such as those, then that program is being misused, and it needs to be reformed. If they want to be effective instead of having their funds misused, anti-poverty charities and anti-poverty government programs need to make sure their clients do not have any luxuries such as those listed above because that means funding is being wasted.

You can discuss the above post in this thread at the Philosophy Forums.

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My good friend sent me the following quote from an article in his local paper:

A family of four in England tips the scales at a combined 1,100 pounds. They can’t–don’t want to?–work, so they live off taxpayers, collecting the equivalent to take-home pay of $42,000, on top of the “free” universal health care for assorted ailments linked to their morbid obesity. The family, of course, is grateful for the government’s generosity with other people’s money. Not exactly. “What we get barely covers the bills and puts food on the table,” says the father in demanding bigger government handouts. “It’s not our fault we can’t work. We deserve more.” We wish we could say this isn’t typical of people on the dole everywhere.

The information provided leads one to condemn that family and the policies that allow them to collect the money they get without working. Of course, without more specific information I cannot comment on that specific family. For example, they could have some weird illness or injury through no fault of their own. Or, if two or three of the family members are children, I think $42,000 is too little to securely raise children and would advocate for more for the children. But they could just be lazy people who could take care of themselves but who choose to not take care of themselves and leech off the working class.

Regardless of what that specific family does, there are many people in this world who do simply leech off the working class. That includes families who could work and take care of themselves but instead choose to take advantage of charity and anti-poverty assistance. Even more, it includes rich people who leech off the working class taxpayers from government spending such as the executives and share-holders of bailed out companies and the industries who receive large subsidies, contracts and favors from governments, such as the military industry and the private-owned prison industry.

Yes, let’s condemn those people who use resources meant for the needy who do not need them. They take advantage of probably well-intentioned but poorly administered anti-poverty programs. They misdirect funds to themselves that could have helped relieve actual poverty. They are not poor but are people who could live out of poverty without the assistance they lazily choose to take. They leech off of the working class, a form of legalized stealing or sometimes outright fraud. But perhaps even worse they make the general public skeptical of anti-poverty campaigns, programs and spending.

These lazy, greedy people and what they do raises an age-old wisdom I often point out on this blog: We need to find efficient, effective ways to help people help themselves. We need to teach people to fish, not unconditionally give them fish.

There is a major poverty problem in our society that needs to be fixed and that we would all benefit from fixing. There are many honest, hard-working people who are in poverty, near poverty or at risk of falling in poverty not from laziness or their own bad decisions but because of corruption in society and other external forces that could throw you or I into poverty just as easily and unfairly.

But with the limited funds currently going to solve the problem, it seems that we can only afford to give fish to hungry people rather than teach them to fish. In yet another analogy, we are spending $10 a day to scoop water out of a sinking boat rather than investing $100 today alone to fix the hole in the boat.

Doing and spending less in the short-term to solve problems like poverty costs us more in the long-term. But it also leaves room for those lazy, greedy people to take advantage of the inefficient, ineffective and short-sighted system. And by making the general public more skeptical, people want to put even less resources towards scooping water out of the sinking boat than we do now and even more unwilling to invest the big money now to fix the hole entirely.

In other posts, I have pointed out the fundamental, inherent flaws of government spending. I also wrote in my last blog post, “Ideally speaking, I see a society in which nobody suffers from poverty, where people don’t go hungry and homeless down the street from an overstocked grocery store and a vacant house. In that ideal society, neither taxes nor government spending would be needed.”

The less poverty we have, the less anti-poverty campaigns we have for lazy people to misappropriate. The less poverty, the less anti-poverty government spending.

So we can almost all agree that we need to reduce poverty as much as possible and ideally eradicate poverty entirely. We need to invest in doing that. To do that we need to change the methods we use to be more cost effective in the long run rather than the short run. We need to make sure the resources of anti-poverty campaigns and programs help those truly in need help themselves. And we need to NOT let those other greedy, lazy people misuse, misdirect and misappropriate resources and scare the general public into reducing the funding, efficiency and effectiveness of anti-poverty campaigns.

Please discuss the above blog post in this thread at the Philosophy of Politics Forum.

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Increasing prices of energy and food have worsened and will continue to worsen the problems of world hunger and poverty. Even in first world countries such as the United States, rising food prices and inflation have made poor people poorer, have put more people at greater risk of poverty, and have worsened the financial conditions of most non-poor people.

I believe the current food crisis makes it even more important that we utilize long-term solutions to prevent, alleviate and hopefully eradicate poverty.

Let me play on an old metaphor: If you give a man a fish each day, when fishing prices go up you will not be able to afford to give the charity and the man will starve. If you teach a man to fish, then afterwards he can probably fully support himself regardless of fluctuations in the price of fish. Also, in the long run, teaching a man to fish costs less than giving him a fish each day for the rest of his life.

We can protect people and society as a whole from poverty and rising food prices. I believe we need to do it by getting people in poverty or at risk of poverty into programs that will turn poor families into self-sufficient families. Namely, we need to provide people with education, skills training, and job placement services. We need to help the people start their own businesses or get jobs that pay them enough to support themselves and their families. And we need to make sure the people have access to food, shelter and healthcare while they go through the process of getting the job, including the time it takes them to get the education and skills to get the job.

Healthcare can be especially important in cases where a person has an illness or mental disorder that prevents them from doing what it takes to get a job that pays them enough to support themselves and their families.

If you know of any good programs helping families become self-sufficient as I have described above, please post about them in my World Hunger and Poverty Forums. You can also use the forums to post other comments in response to this blog post.

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Throughout my unprofessional studies of history and geopolitics, I have come to the conclusion that young people tend to start, push and lead the most effective and positive social movements. For example, consider the hippies, yippies, and such in the United States, namely in the 60s and 70s.

I believe young people tend to have the most compassion and the most principled and honest sense of justice. I believe young people become the most honestly upset by the world’s constant terrors and injustices, such as war, poverty, oppression, political inequality, violence and so forth. In this harsh, corrupt world, perhaps as people get older they tend to become corrupted and institutionalized. Perhaps age breeds complacency and tolerance of the horrible.

Not only do I propose we try to get the youth involved in poverty alleviation and other progressive social movements, but also I propose we try to turn these movements into youth movements.

Like many activists in the United States, I have often asked myself how we can bring back the social awareness and progressive momentum of the counterculture of the 1960s, a time marked by its heavy involvement of young people and their relative free-spiritedness, originality, sense of individuality and lack of corruption.

If you have any good ideas for getting the youth involved or if you know of any organizations already helping the youth get involved, please post about them in my World Hunger and Poverty Forums.

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The people of the world would benefit in many ways by reducing or eliminating global poverty and by increasing education levels.

I believe less poverty and more education would reduce violent crime and other forms of criminal victimization. Poor and uneducated people tend to turn to crime and anti-social behavior more often. The same happens to other people raised in poor and uneducated neighborhoods.

I believe less poverty and more education would reduce terrorism. Actual terrorists generally come from more affluent backgrounds because poor people have too many personal problems to get so actively involved in politics. However, anger and hatred over the perceived injustice of the existence of poverty and socioeconomic inequality helps create and empower terrorists. Additionally, lack of political rights does correlate with terrorism, and a less poor and better educated public often achieves more political rights and equality without as much violence. In other words, though terrorists may not be poor, I believe terrorism thrives in a world with poverty and lack of education. (Terrorism is never justified, in my opinion. Nonetheless, we need to counter the contributing factors if we wish to stop and prevent it.)

I believe less poverty and more education would lead to more wealth and happiness for all. Investing in saving children and communities from poverty helps create a more productive and wealthy society. Educated and working people living in a fair and free society not only benefit themselves but they benefit others. Well-educated and hard-working people will produce wealth in this cooperative system that we call a society. For example, how much better off would the rest of us be if poor, uneducated and homeless single mothers had received excellent education and now had a good job providing valuable services to others for great pay that kept them and their families out of poverty? How much wealthier would the entire world be if those starving Ethiopian children instead went to great schools and performed useful jobs keeping themselves out of poverty?

Breaking the poverty cycle will help us all! Do not look at poverty alleviation as charity. I doubt we will end poverty if we look at it as charity. Charity cannot end global poverty. We need to recognize that helping poor people help themselves not only helps them but it helps us too. To that end, we can find mutually beneficial social interactions and movements that alleviate poverty. Namely, I recommend investing heavily in small businesses and in education including both investing in organizations creating and running schools as well as investing in students with extensive student loans. We need to find ways to get better schools and better paying jobs into poor areas or ways to get poor children and unemployed people out of poor areas and into areas with great schools and great jobs for the educated.

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Children suffering from Poverty