See below for a guest post from Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam America. This post originally appeared on Oxfam’s Politics of Poverty blog.
Let me let you in on a secret; the United States needs help. In fact, as rich and powerful as the United States is, we still have problems we can’t solve on our own. In a world where violence, scarcity, and poverty ignore borders, we need the help of people living in other countries to help make our world better, safer, and more prosperous.
The good news is that there are a lot of people out there who want to work with us. They don’t work with us out of charity or because they necessarily like us. They work with us because we want the same thing: a world that can fight back against problems like poverty, injustice, and disease.
Jacqueline Morette is one of these people. Jacqueline is a farmer from rural Haiti. She co-founded an organization that helps poor women farmers grow more food and reach new markets to sell their products. Under her leadership, members are earning more, feeding their families, and becoming self-sufficient.
Another is Kim Nay Heang, a 57-year-old entrepreneur from Cambodia who learned how to transform her household fishpond into a profitable business venture. With this income, Heang helped her family survive a spike in food prices—and provided an education for her five grandchildren.
Or Jose Ordoñez, a Honduran corn farmer who struggled to provide for his three children. After learning to plant more profitable crops like papaya and transporting the fruits to a market where they fetch a good price, he is now earning enough to secure his family’s future.
All these people are working hard and taking risks, trying to make their communities, their countries, and the world, better. And all three of these people—Jacqueline, Kim, and Jose—have partnered with the US government to fight poverty and injustice.
The US is right to invest in partners like Jacqueline, Kim, and Jose. Real development depends on hard work by people like these, trying to change their own societies for the better. But every few years, Congress has second thoughts; they slash foreign aid to the bone, and yank the rug out from under the very people who are busting their tails to help us build a better, safer, more prosperous world.
It doesn’t have to be this way. US development assistance programs are less than one percent of the US federal budget. As one advocate put it, “Cutting foreign aid to address the budget crisis is like getting your hair cut in an effort to lose weight.” And while cutting development assistance won’t even begin to solve our fiscal problems, it will devastate people like Jacqueline, Kim and Jose who are trying to do the right thing. And it will cost lives.
Jacqueline, Kim and Jose, and millions of other people around the world working to fight poverty, hunger and injustice, don’t have fancy well-heeled lobbyists fighting for their interests in the craziness that is Washington today. But with their hard work, a little bit of our money, and both of our persistence, we can get there. We just need the courage to not give up the fight.