In this second report following a field mission to the country, the WFP Centre of Excellence team detail some of the achievements and challenges of the home-grown school feeding programme
The First Lady of The Gambia, Fattoumatta Bah Barrow, the Minister for Basic and Secondary Education, Claudina Cole, and WFP Country Director in The Gambia, Wanja Kaaria, serve school meals to students during the African Day of School Feeding celebrations in The Gambia in 2018. Photo: WFP/Kebba Jallow.
In 2019, more than 100,000 students in 368 schools in all six regions of The Gambia received daily meals thanks to the local Government and WFP. The European Union and the Governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea have been important partners, as they financed central actions to pilot and scale up the programme. Recent evaluations, which were the basis for the needs assessment the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil is conducting for resource mobilization, point out that school feeding has achieved important results in many domains. The average number of school meal days was 113 between 2013 and 2015, or 56.8% of the 199 school days. This is a meaningful result for a low-income country which has recently started the transition of the ownership of its home-grown school feeding programme (HGSF) to the local government.
For this to become a reality, the WFP Country Office has supported essential institutional capacity strengthening steps to support the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the civil society for a hand-over of the HGSF programme and for increasing the rate of local purchases. Despite important progress made, domestic stakeholders still demand additional support from WFP to deliver HGSF programme in large areas of the country. To ensure sustainability, the WFP Country Office director, Wanja Kaaria, emphasises that preparation for a programme ownership and hand-over to the Government of The Gambia is an essential element in the design of any new HGSF projects.
Even if the capacity of the MoBSE and MoA, the main actors in this programme, is still insufficient for a fully effective take-over of the HGSF programme, valuable stepping stones on the roadmap towards a nationally owned school feeding programme are already in place, including the existence of a specific budget line for the programme in the National Budget (2018) with a first provision of GMD 30 million (USD 590,000). A results-based roadmap for guiding the remaining stages of capacity strengthening of MoBSE is presently being prepared as part of the resource mobilization the Centre of Excellence and WFP Country Office are undertaking.
Evaluations also demonstrate that WFP has piloted models of HGSF successfully. Data indicate that the cash transfer based (CTB) school management modality is a good cost-effective model. In The Gambia, a CTB modality has the following advantages: contributing to good nutrition and health eating habits of students; the school menu is in harmony with the local culture and food availability and includes locally produced fresh vegetables; relies on strong community participation and ownership; supports local farmers through the purchase of locally produced food. The latter benefits especially rural women, who produce 80% of the food basket consumed at schools.
WFP’s Wanja Kaaria and Igor Carneiro conduct a multi-sectoral meeting with government and civil society stakeholders during the resource mobilization project preparation to promote national ownership of the HGSF programme.
Some achievements have already been delivered by the Centre of Excellence and WFP Country Office in the resource mobilization joint-initiative to support and seek resources to development. They include strategic planning and financing (WFP, national and subnational institutions have financial resources to carry out capacity strengthening activities to meet zero hunger targets); Stakeholder programme design and delivery (Improve food availability for food-insecure populations in targeted areas, including school-aged children and smallholder farmers); School-aged children can have access to adequate and nutritious food all year through the school feeding programme and smallholder farmers can have food access through the income generated by selling their production to the school markets); Engagement and participation of non-state actors (Provide supply chain and market support, including for home-grown school feeding, for smallholder farmers to increase productivity and access to markets, complemented by community asset creation through training activities for hard and soft capacities).