A-three-day regional workshop on the ‘Home Grown School Feeding’ within the context of national school health and nutrition programmes yesterday kicked-off at the SunSwing Hotel.
The workshop, which was hosted by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education of The Gambia, and funded by the Partnership for Child Development and the World Bank, was in response to the needs for raising awareness and understanding of diverse strategies for sustainable school feeding programmes, with a renewed focus on linkages with agriculture in ECOWAS member countries.
According to organisers, the broad objectives of the Banjul workshop are to share experiences and take stock of the status of implementation of school-feeding programmes, with a view to having paradigm shift in favour of a nationally owned school feeding programme.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Madam Fatou Lamin Faye, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, said the forum presents an exciting opportunity that brings together a diverse range of expertise in the areas of education, agriculture and health, to explore further the barriers and actions required to achieve a nationally owned sustainable home-grown school feeding programme and linking it to the broader school health and nutrition package.
She stated that having all these personalities from 13 different countries is a clear manifestation of the required commitment of the various governments to take ownership, using the multi-sectoral approach.
“It is also an event which demonstrates the unwavering resolve and commitment of both government and the World Food Program to successfully transit from an old model of school -feeding programme which largely depends on implementing partners, such as WFP to procure and deliver food aid to schools to one that will be totally and locally funded, managed and monitored,” she said.
According to her, when the School Feeding Programmes are linked to local agricultural production, and integrated into health and nutrition programmes they benefit all clients, by generating stable structured and predictable demand for their products.
She noted that a comprehensive school health and nutrition (SHN) programme addresses challenges, such as HIV and AIDS prevention, malaria and parasitic worm treatment control and prevention, and nutritional deficiencies, such as iron-deficient anaemia and short-term hunger, through school -feeding.
“If these conditions are not addressed through timely and effective interventions, evidence clearly demonstrated the negative impact they may have on school-aged children’s health and educational achievement,” she said.
“Furthermore, a growing body of evidence highlights the long-term and far-reaching negative consequences of poor health outcomes for school-aged children on the broader education system, late achievements in life, as well as national and regional economies,” Honourable Faye said.
“On the home front, the government of The Gambia, in close partnership with the WFP and other partners is committed to implementing a transitional programme leading to a national owned school feeding programme, under the guidance of the theme: Every child must eat a nutritious school meal,” she stated.
As part of this transitional programme, the Government of The Gambia commits a financial responsibility of 25 percent of WFP’s school feeding assistant by 2016, to cover 20, 100 beneficiaries.
Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Representative in The Gambia, said the need and commitment to overcome hunger, poverty and illiteracy was reiterated in 2000, by countries including The Gambia with the adoption of MDGs.
Dr Ahmadu noted that promoting nutritionally adequate diets for all is a major aim of FAO.
For her part, Teresita Mosquera, the Head of Programme and Officer-in-Charge of World Food Program, said home-grown approach aims to link school meals with small-scale farmers, by boosting the market for small-holder farmers.
Other speakers included Mrs. Amicoleh Mbaye, Network Chair and Director Basic and Secondary Education and PS Baboucarr Boye of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, who chaired the opening ceremony.