HANGING ON THE EDGE: THE DAILY FISCAL CLIFF
By Roger Thurow
The smallholder farmers of Africa know all about fiscal cliffs.
“Everybody wants money,” Leonida Wanyama despaired as she neared the precipice of her own personal cliff during the hunger season. She had no food in the house and no money, either. Many forces were pushing her to the edge. Her children were being sent home from their classes by headmasters demanding that the school fees be paid. She was running up a tab at the local pharmacy, where she picked up malaria medication on the promise of future payment. She needed to pay off her credit for maize seeds and fertilizer. Most pressing of all was the daily need to scrounge up something to feed her family now that the food from her own harvest had run out. Every morning when she awoke after a fitful night tormented by worry, she felt the cliff was just beyond the door of her mud-and-sticks house.
Leonida and her neighbors in western Kenya have been peering into the abyss long before the phrase “fiscal cliff” became a buzzword in Washington. Zipporah Biketi, another farmer in western Kenya, told me about the daily battle to pull her children back from malnutrition. The children, she said, “don’t know the hardships that their parents pass through…They just want to eat.”
For a nation like the United States, burdened with debt and budget deficits – and this applies to all of Europe as well – falling over the cliff is a scary proposition. But for the billion or so people who exist on one or two dollars a day – like the smallholder farmers of Africa – it is a daily terror.