Amazing NYT front-pager yesterday: For 20 years, the World Bank and the western countries that give aid to Africa have been demanding that recipient countries not provide subsidies to farmers. Instead, the western donors have advocated a "free-market" paradigm in which poor countries grow cash crops instead of food, then buy food from rich countries (which massively subsidize their own farmers). Without subsidies, African farmers can't afford to buy fertilizer, which means they can't afford to grow food.

Two years ago, after a poor harvest led to a devastating famine, Malawi's president, as the Times puts it, "decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached," and reinstated fertilizer subsidies. Now Malawi is selling surplus corn to Zimbabwe, and UNICEF is sending the powdered milk it has stockpiled in Malawi to Uganda instead.

It's an incredible indictment of western aid policy and the failures of free-market dogma. Those who read to the end will be rewarded with a scene in which a village chief performs "a silly pantomime."