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'Feeding the Hungry'

November 26, 1987

I applaud you for printing Orville Freeman's article "Feeding the Hungry Is More Than Moral" (Op-Ed Page, Nov. 15), and am pleased that a former secretary of agriculture has written eloquently on the interdependence of American self-interest and Third World development. He alluded to an "action" triangle of interests that could provide a constituency against hunger: humanitarian aid, Third World Development and commercial market building. A triangle is an apt metaphor--all three sides are interdependent. Eliminate one and the others fall flat.

How often we have attacked the problem of world hunger with a one-sided approach. We have gone through periods of providing only humanitarian aid, fostering dependency and paternalism. We have approached Third World development at times with disregard of humanitarian considerations, resulting in some top-down "solutions" that have actually hurt the poorest of the poor more than helped them. Commercial market building when done without regard to long-term Third World development and humanitarian aid has often resulted in exploitation.

What is encouraging is the plethora of examples that show when humanitarian aid, Third World development and commercial market building are all put into the same formula remarkable things happen. For example, low-interest loans to the poor have been transforming the lives of peasants in countries around the world. By borrowing small amounts of cash, they are allowed the opportunity to work, produce, gain income, purchase goods, repay their loans, and begin again at a higher level. These loans usually have better than a 90% pay-back rate. This is good business.

Surely with the recent events in the fall of the U.S. stock market and the concomitant fall of foreign stock markets, there can be few left that believe we operate in economic isolation from the rest of the world. This "action" triangle of interests can provide part of the foundation for economic world health.

JEANNE SURBER

Santa Barbara

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