BANJUL: The Gambia has reiterated its commitment to promote school feeding as a foundation for development and prosperity, during celebrations to mark the fourth edition of the Africa Day of School Feeding held under the patronage of the country’s First Lady, H.E Fatoumata Bah Barrow today.
Well-designed school feeding programmes have demonstrated high returns in four important areas — education, nutrition, social protection and local agriculture — all of which translate into human capital growth and sustainable development.
“School Feeding is changing lives in Africa – millions of children have regular access to education, smallholder farmers are finding new markets, new jobs are created,” H.E. Fatoumata Bah Barrow said in her key note address at the event. “Governments, such as ours, are through this programme positioning themselves to start reaping the benefits in this human capital for sustainable development,” she added.
The Africa Day of School Feeding celebrated this year under the theme “Investing in Home Grown school Feeding for Zero Hunger, Sustaining Inclusive Education for All,” was instituted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government during the 26th African Union Summit in January 2016 in recognition of the immense value of home-grown school feeding (HGSF).
With HGSF food is sourced from local smallholder farmers. The idea is to provide local farmers and businesses with a predictable outlet for their products, leading to more stable incomes, more investment, higher productivity and the creation of jobs for youth and women in the communities concerned.
The Government of The Gambia recognises that school feeding programmes need to be implemented at scale through increased domestic financing to have the most impact on economic development.
“I will intensify efforts towards allocating a significant budget to school feeding to strengthen national ownership and control,” Hon. Claudiana Cole, Minister of Basic and Secondary Education said. “The role of private sector will need to be harnessed to upscale school feeding programmes. Public-Private Partnership is necessary for a successful Home-Grown School Feeding,” Hon. Cole added.
Every day, nearly 360,000 children receive a meal at school from the Government of The Gambia and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), school feeding programmes in over 500 schools in the country.
“It is important that more local resources are invested in developing Home Grown School Feeding, to provide that multi-dimensional growth that ensures that no-one is left behind,” Ms Seraphine Wakana, the Resident Coordinator, said in her remarks.
The Special Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Vabah Gayflor, in her Joint solidarity statement with the African Union and WFP, commended the Government of The Gambia for allocating over 120 million Dalasis (US$ 2.5million) towards school feeding in two regions, which is a clear demonstration of political will.
The WFP Representative in The Gambia, Ms. Wanja Kaaria was among the dignitaries including the ministers of Women Affairs Children and Social Welfare, Health, Youth and Sports, Permanent Secretaries, heads of UN agencies, senior officials from various ministries, teachers, students and civil society organisations, who attended celebrations of Africa Day of School Feeding in The Gambia.
The colourful event was marked by a parade by school children, supported by the government and WFP, as well as lunch served to children by the First Lady, Ministers, the Resident Coordinator, and the WFP Representative.
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