new strategy being implemented by government of The Gambia and the World Food
Programme (WFP) seeks to source locally-produced food stuffs to feed Gambian
school kids, instead of importing foods into the country.
The World Food Programme regional director for West and Central Africa discussed such plans with His Excellency, President Adama Barrow at the State House on Friday. Mr. Abdou Dieng and delegation, also comprising WFP country rep in The Gambia, were accompanied to the State House by minister of Education, Claudiana Cole.
Their discussions with President Barrow centred on issues around the school feeding programme which is very high on both the government and the WFP agenda. As are other issues relating to nutrition in general and support to small holder Gambian farmers.
“With this initiative, our children in school can be assured of consuming fresh food such as vegetables and cereals produced locally by our farmers,” Ms. Claudiana Cole said.
There are 400, 000 children at the Gambian lower basic schools alone.
The programme is a transition, as WFP already covers a third of the targeted student population in the country in the first phase. With government ownership, it is expected to expand to the rest in the coming years.
President Barrow renews his commitment to the school feeding programme, clearly indicating that one of his government’s priorities is education in general and support to the youths. The delgates contend with the political will given by the president to this programme since the transition from imports to home grown school meals that began some years ago.
With the implementation of this strategy, the importation of school meal food stuffs will phase out gradually.
“It will create great demand on local produce to feed all the schools across the country,” President Barrow told the delegation.
President Barrow described it as a sure way of boosting agricultural production, motivating many others to take up farming ventures, and cutting down on food wastage in the country.
“In the WFP country strategy, the first activity is to provide support to nutrition particularly for children under 5years. The second is how we link the small holder farmers to provide school meal,” Abdou Dieng said.
This means that the World Food Programme and government no longer has to import food to feed the kids in school. Rather, it will use the locally-produced food stuffs in The Gambia to support the school meals.
WFP Country Representative in The Gambia, Ms. Wanja Kaaria Ndoho explained that the idea is to provide a holistic response, where school meals are seen as an entry point to address resilience of the children.
This will equip school children with strong education foundation and nutritious foods, while engaging communities to become suppliers of the food children consume in schools.