The United Nations World Food Programme in collaboration with the European Union and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education on Tuesday the 6th of November 2012 launched the Capacity Development School Feeding Programme at the Regional Education Directorate Region one Kanifing.
In her statement, the European Union Charge d' Affaires Mme Agnes Guillaud noted among other things that the partnership between EU, WFP and the government of the Gambia actually started in 2010 when, following the 2008 food crisis, the EU decided to assist WFP and the Government by increasing the number of schools and children targeted by the school feeding programme through a provision of additional 2.64 million Euros, about 100 million dalasi.
From the experience of recent projects she said, it is clear now that a common programme improving agriculture, nutrition and food security at the same time has more chance to have a sustainable impact on food security and in that sense she went on, the EU has been working for the last year with FAO, WFP and the Government in designing a new type of project for the Gambia.
She pointed out that the 7.6 million euros programme, of about 300 million dalasis, called "Improving food security through crop production intensification and school feeding program" is part of the MDG initiative funded by the EU to accelerate the efforts made towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals Targets.
In her statement, the Country Director of World Food Programme Vitoria Ginja noted that WFP has been providing assistance to the Gambia in the area of school feeding for the past 40 years and that the difference between then and now is that significant strides have been made towards establishing the foundation for a nationally-owned sustainable school feeding programme.
She said during the life time of the project, WFP will share know-how and assist the Government to identify the most appropriate way to establish and manage the home grown school feeding programme.
She asserted that one may wonder why it is so important for WFP and the Gambia Government to invest in school feeding in the Gambia but that she said evidence shows that school feeding greatly enhances the attainment of the education goals of the country, by contributing to increased enrollment and completion rates; that this is backed by studies at the level of WFP, World Bank and other partners.
She went on to show that during the recent school feeding evaluation, majority of parents attested that indeed availability of school meals is one of the major reasons why they send their children to school, in addition to education of course and that they learnt from recent publications of the World Bank and WFP, that school feeding contributes to long term development.
In her statement read on her behalf by the Minister of Agriculture Solomon Owens, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education Fatou Lamin Faye noted that the WFP aims to handover full responsibility for school feeding to the Government by 2020, in line with Vision 2020 and that this is a clear manifestation of the political will and commitment necessary to champion this cause.
She said since this transition would require a strong foundation with the right institutional framework for its successful implementation, an inter-ministerial coordinating arrangement with clear roles and responsibilities of key government ministries like Agriculture, Health, Education and Local Government supported by the participation of development partners will have to be put in place
Hence she said, laying this foundation and constructing the building blocks of the transition on it would require in no small measure, capacity building and strengthening of institutional and management capacities. Thus she said, this capacity building project about to be launched is essentially meant to establish the foundation for transition to a nationally-owned and managed sustainable home-grown school feeding program.