Craig Whittaker tells House of Commons about the importance of foreign aid
Friday, 12 November 2010
. . . foreign aid not only brings untold benefits to the recipient country and its people - when we do it right - and untold long-term benefits to our own economy and country, but produces a sustainable, stable foreign country that helps and grows itself, which in turn helps to make a safer and more secure world.
Below is the speech by Craig Whittaker MP to the House of Commons on 9th November, making the case for foreign aid.
I congratulate my colleague, Heidi Alexander, on securing the debate. I also congratulate her on her speech, which outlined the reasons why investment in smallholder farming underpins many of our country's development goals and why greater investment in agriculture could yield much wider benefits.
At my last "meet your MP" public meeting in my constituency, I was asked why we are spending so much money on foreign aid when our own country's financial plight seems so dire. The answer is quite simple: foreign aid not only brings untold benefits to the recipient country and its people - when we do it right - and untold long-term benefits to our own economy and country, but produces a sustainable, stable foreign country that helps and grows itself, which in turn helps to make a safer and more secure world.
I want to expand on my comment about "when we do it right", because the hon. Lady highlighted several charities and non-governmental organisations that do some fabulous work in Kenya. I must also declare an interest, because on our trip to Kenya with the all-party group on agriculture and food for development, we saw not only the excellent examples to which she referred, but the fact that it is not always necessary to spend great deals of money to implement a change for the better. In the smallholder farming stakes, we saw an excellent project in Mwingi, where Farm Africa is doing some fantastic work with the cross-breeding of goats. We were told that a local goat produced a mere 80 ml of milk a day, but if it is cross-bred with one of the stronger breeds of goat, such as a British variety of goat or a German Alpine goat, it produces up to a litre of milk a day. If that cross-breed is then cross-bred further to 75%-that is a goat that is 75% of the stronger foreign goat and 25% of the local goat-the yield of milk goes up to a staggering 3 litres a day.
When that simple, low-cost exercise is carried out by local farmers, it helps them to become much more sustainable within the food chain, because they can sell their milk to hospitals for money that they can use to buy a variety of food to achieve a balanced diet. Furthermore, the resulting milk has tremendous effects by improving the nutrition of newborn children, and indeed their mothers. It is a real "win-win" situation, whereby a low-cost project empowers local people to strive towards sustainability and, eventually, to excel and become sustainable.
Our Government have a huge vested interest in the big society. We need look no further than British NGOs and charities to see examples of organisations that are living and breathing the big society on a daily basis. Through their volunteer programmes, they empower the people with whom they work to map out their own sustainable futures. The power, innovation, leadership and enterprise of our NGOs are absolutely second to none. The NGOs deliver with passion and genuine innovation for smallholder success, without the corruption and self-interest that we often see in national Governments. They are good at mapping out a sustainable future for smallholder farmers but they need help, both from ourselves and our partners.
For the first time in two generations, Africa has a real opportunity to achieve food and nutrition security through agricultural development. As the hon. Lady mentioned, the Montpelier report was published recently. It shows that, despite the fact that the international donor community started to pull out of agricultural development well over two decades ago, there is growing optimism in sub-Saharan Africa that the region can achieve its anticipated green goals.
Food security is a key intermediary outcome in the development process and we have seen a new and growing commitment from African countries to increase resources for agriculture and rural development to at least 10% of national budgets within five years. The challenge for our country, and indeed for our European partners, is how to help to co-ordinate those strategies and how to help to ensure that the momentum is sustained in terms of even greater commitment and funding by the key African and European partners.
The Montpelier report believes that we are well placed to take the lead and drive forward that change. It highlights three key areas that need urgent attention: sustaining the momentum, as I have already mentioned; reducing price volatility; and tackling chronic hunger. My main wish is that the Minister accepts the Montpelier report as a solid blueprint for real sustainable change and that the recommendations in the report, as well as the excellent work of our NGOs and charities in agriculture in particular, are incorporated within our aid programme to help eradicate chronic hunger in Africa for good.
One of the basic requirements in life is food. If we can drive forward our quest to empower people to become self-sustainable with food, the human instinct to survive, along with our aid to empower potential, will ensure that other basic requirements, such as education, health care and housing, will follow. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that the key catalyst to a safer and more secure world is investment in agricultural development and food sustainability.