Thursday, April 14, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | UN video game makes hunger point: ""

It's 227mb...*gah*

6 missions: Ranging from dropping food parcels from the air to a sim-city like simulation of rebuilding a city through food aid. Complete with help from your trusty experts from the Word Food Program (WFP) and a nice little wrap-up to show the kids how the big uncles actually do it (or muck it up).

But from what I have seen and read of it, it generally looks positive and besides with success of games like Sim-City, Sim-Farm, Sim-Island (which is a freaking brillaint ecology game) and the Tycoon Series (Cruise Tycoon anyone?), it really should not be too difficult to create a game that adults should fine interesting and educational (children on the other hand have an instinctual negative reaction against such gimicky and hocky kind of idea....or maybe it's just us Singaporean kids fed a bad diet of education programmes.)

But on a more serious note, the premise behind it is not unsound. I think it is possible to portray the difficulties and good that food aid can do in an "exciting and dynamic form". After all, any game that actually forces you to deliver foodaid through a rebel blockade has it's heart in the right place. No sugar-coating the problem for these little kiddies.

It's a pretty tough topic with issues in geo-politics (food aid as a method in the cold war of garnering allies/saterlites), to the environment (Ethopia or Sudan rejecting food aid because they were 'dangerous' GM food), to domestic politics (See Mugabe's Zimbabwe below), to economics (more accurately logistics. There is sufficient food but getting it to the needy is tough.)

The last issue, economics/logistics merits some discussion. The basic question always has been, if the EU has a food mountain (courtesy of the inefficient wasteful CAP) and Africa has a food deficit, surely it would be a simple matter of transfering food from one area to another without destroying the wheat? Well, the equivocal answer would be the standard yes but....

Technologically, I think we are capable. As are we logistically i.e. through the WFP. But there are political and economic concerns here. Political because food in these area equates to power. North Korea needed famine on a massive scale before they 'allowed' direct food aid in. Which brings us to the next point that often these nations (baring one off droughts or crop failures) don't exactly have the institutional capacity to deliver the food and I don't necessarily mean to remote areas. So the only way the aid will be effective would be for the NGOs to directly take over the distribution themselves but this effectively hollows out the government's state capacity and prevents the necessaruy impetus for change and reform (for a longer and more extensive handling of this issue, see Fukuyama's State Building)

Economically, food aid would destory the agarian industry of the receipant nation. Why bother to plant or to buy food if it will be given free? There's no incentive to plant anyone and farmers stay poor because no one buys their crops. This in turn has ripple effects on the rest of the economy i.e. downwards spiral. Note: this is only true for long term aid and not your one off kind of things.

On a last note, I would have loved to see a scenario where you have to persuade Mugabe that using food aid as a method of encouraging his starving people to vote for him is an unethical one (complete with an option to beat him with a very large stick if he refuses)



Post a Comment

<< Home