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Financial Consideration When Shipping Food

Indianapolis, Indiana & Lilongwe Malawi … When the Malawians are able to raise their own food, rather than having it shipped in from the United States or Canada, it can be is a win-win for everyone. It not only contributes to their independence, but the following math proves the actual cost savings for home-grown grain is very surprising.

In 2018 the Malawi Project helped institute a program where funding was made available to select groups in Malawi. It was a pilot program to determine the value to help them with partial funding to build community storage warehouses. Called the Joseph Project, three buildings were constructed in different parts of the nation to show what could be accomplished if community groups and churches went together, formed co-ops, used allotted funding to build large food warehouses, then raised food they could store for a later time, as well as having food available to assist those in need; orphans, widows, the elderly, and those with mobility, or other issues making it difficult for them to raise sufficient food for themselves.

Begin with that background about the three grain storage buildings.

  1.     Three grain storage buildings built in different parts of Malawi. The work was carried out by the Malawians themselves. They made the bricks, carried out the construction, supervised each project, planted and cared for the crops, and are currently playing some of their maize crop in the facilities. The Malawi Project invested $10,000 for the construction of the three warehouses. The Malawians shouldered the rest of the cost. To measure the capacity of the buildings one will need the size and storage capability of each building.
  2.      Building one has a square footage of 6,146 cubic feet and can store approximately 610 bags of maize. This will require 2.44 shipping containers to fill. Building two has a square footage of 9,669 cubic feet and can store approximately 872 bags of maize. This will require 3.49 shipping containers to fill. Building three has a square footage of 8,449 cubic feet and can store approximately 762 bags of maize. This will require 3.05 shipping containers to fill. That totals nearly 9 shipping containers to fill these three buildings one time.
  3.       Compare this program that has a cost of only $10,000.00 to one where food is sent in on a consistent basis, even in times when there is no catastrophic situation with which to contend. For each 40-foot trailer of food assume someone has donated the food at no cost to contributors. The only cost will be $14,000.00 for overseas shipping.
  4.       To fill three storage facilities with food shipping in from the outside will require 9 shipping containers. At $14,000.00 each, the cost will be $126,000 to send enough grain to fill the buildings one time. They were constructed for $10,000.00
  5.       If you project that to two years you get $252,000.00 to ship 18 containers to fill the same three buildings that were constructed for $10,000.00 and are still standing.
  6.       Now assume the buildings and the grain-growing program goes on for five years. You will have 45 shipping containers at a whopping $630,000.00 in shipping cost alone, compared with the $10,000.00 outside investment.

Please realize we are not saying one should stop sending food aid. On the contrary, in times of famine, weather changes, and crop failures due to insect infestation there is a critical need, and it should be addresses with all of the strength the aid community and the churches can bring to bear on the problem.

However, when crops are good, and planting is carried out with a plan for self-sustaining crop production, and with adequate storage availability, there is a better way than to keep sending food and creating dependence. For the wellbeing of those who receive aid, it is important that programs combine aid when needed, and other forms of assistance to produce their own food when that is a possible alternative.

By Richard Stephens

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