The Phnom Penh Post article "ADB ‘disappointed' by use of aid" published [November 6] and other related articles in the past few days, reporting anger and protests of aid recipients in several provinces should ring as an alarm bell for a very serious re-evaluation of the project as well as the bank's policies on emergency food aid projects for Cambodia.
Food distribution when left in the hands of local authorities with no participation from the people or any form of monitoring to ensure transparency runs a high risk of unfair distribution and even corruption at the expense of the recipients who are mainly women and children.
Furthermore, political discrimination cannot be avoided when villagers are under the strict control of their village and commune chiefs, the majority of whom are affiliated with the party in power.
Food aid in this case leads to political empowerment and a means to sustain the status quo at the local level.
The ADB should not just be disappointed, but should be serious about investigating the past mismanagement and actions should be taken to ensure a better system of distribution.
Let us stop the game of punishing the poor.
The target areas chosen for the project are not disputed but the objectives of providing subsidised seeds and fertilisers and food-for-work programs for poor farmers should be questioned.
Are we not going back to square one where Cambodian farmers are back to begging for food and being dependent on unsustainable projects that will end when the dollars end?
Finally, it is hoped that the ADB and the government will take into consideration recommendations made during the launch of the project in Battambang by provincial authorities as well as farmers who called for broader measures to be taken that should include access to markets and loans to get access to production materials to process their own products.
The agricultural sector has great potentials to lift farmers out of poverty but bad policies, mismanagement and unqualified leadership in the sector keep our farmers helpless, having to cope with emergencies that could be easily avoided.
Mu Sochua, MP
Sam Rainsy Party