During a one-day validation of a feasibility study report on the sustainability of a nationally-owned school feeding programme held at the Ocean Bay Hotel yesterday, officials said it was necessary to manage school feeding in a sustainable manner.
In his opening remarks, Baboucarr Bouy, permanent secretary at the MoBSE, said establishing a nationally-owned home grown school feeding programme is not a mean undertaking given our experience with a donor-led programme that has spanned well over forty years. He stated that this did not only require the ultimate repositioning of Gambians as recipients of food aid from partners like WFP but also the procurement of locally produced food.
Mr Bouy further stated that the validation was an offshoot of a nationally-owned sustainable school feeding programme (2012-2016) as a transition to a nationally-owned and managed sustainable homegrown school feeding programme
“The main idea behind the study is to subsequently strengthen the link between schools and communities as well as enhance synergy between the school feeding programme and farmers association,” he added. He noted that in September 2010 an assessment of the school feeding programme was conducted, which provided recommendations for the local procurement of some initial amounts of rice, among other things.
“It is envisioned that as the project works towards a homegrown school feeding model, the government, stakeholders and partners will gradually increase their contributions towards the programme in addition to local farmers, producer associations and stakeholders will be trained in quality standards and marketing as part of a lot project on the local procurement initiative,” Mr Bouy noted.
The WFP country director, Vitoria Ginja, said that the initiative has and will continue to engage a wide range of stakeholders to promote agricultural development by using locally-produced foods for school feeding providing regular markets and a reliable income for smallholder farmers.
“The local procurement feasibility study was supported by the Howard Buffet Foundation which resulted from a visit to The Gambia and the commitment of the Gambia Government to move to a homegrown approach. International Development Support Services won the contract to carry out the study which we are here today to review,” she said.
She revealed that the local procurement plan is in line with Vision 2016, PAGE and Vision 2020 adding that WFP imports every year an average of 2,301.44 metric tonnes of rice for approximately 100,000 school children. And she said based on this data, it is clear that school feeding is a great market for small holder farmers.
Ms Ginja asserted that the main objective was to examine the country’s readiness for local procurement of commodities as well as key operational trade-offs, benchmarks and good practices analysing how homegrown school feeding can most effectively stimulate local agricultural production and create jobs and profit making opportunities in rural communities.
She disclosed that recently WFP and MoBSE awarded contracts to farmers to buy 155 metric tonnes of milled rice sourced locally in CRR revealing that the procurement process is ongoing for an additional 178 metric tonnes.
Mrs Amicoleh Mbaye, director of basic and secondary education, said that it is envisaged that from 2016 to the end of 2020, the Gambia government with its various partners and communities will be able to sustainably run and manage the entire value chain of the homegrown school feeding process.
She said the study and aspects of the capacity development project is supported by partners and stakeholders prominent among which are the EU who provide 7.6 million euros and the Buffet Foundation which provides US$75,000 purposely to conduct the procurement feasibility study as well as support the establishment of 182 school gardens to support school and community nutrition programme.]]>