A high-powered World Food Programme (WFP) Liberia team headed by Deputy Country Director, Asif Bhutto, visits two schools in Nimba County where WFP and partners are providing nutritious Liberian country rice to schoolchildren.
According to WFP, some 20,000 students in 62 public schools in Nimba County are enjoying the daily meals produced by Liberian farmers and purchased by WFP as part of plans to directly support Liberian farmers boost production, better schoolchildren’s nutrition and education status, and improve social and productive safety nets.
Under its Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, WFP in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Agriculture is buying rice, cassava, eddoes, potatoes, vegetables, and palm oil from smallholder farmers in Liberia.
Speaking to students and school administrators early this week, Mr Bhutto said: “WFP is pleased to support the school meals programme with food commodities we buy from Liberian farmers as a way of supporting our own farmers produce more food instead of buying the food from overseas”.
He says the organization’s activities throughout Liberia are in line with government’s development plans as articulated in the pro-Poor Agenda.
The Home-Grown School Meals Programme (HGSFP) – known for its integrated agriculture, nutrition, education and social safety net approaches – is the WFP and Government of Liberia-led innovative and multifaceted development effort, which benefits both the food security and education sectors through the production of nutritious food commodities for use in school feeding.
School administrators are lauding the effort as “extremely wonderful and good for improving education”. Liberia National Red Cross High School (Saclepea) Principal, Joseph S. Adjei, could not hold back his admiration for the home-grown school meals programme: “We have changed from vegetable oil to palm oil and to country rice and eddoes – you name it – and the students love it”.
Mr Adjei outlines the immediate benefits of the new meals programme in his school: “Right now we have 560 students. When we started in September, it was less than that but when the feeding started in October, the news spread and more students came”.
WFP-supported Community Grain Reserves (CGRs) in Nimba County are also supporting the school meals programme by selling Liberian country rice and beans to WFP.Community Grain Reserves are owned and managed by rural women farmer groups that WFP trained and provided with initial amounts of milled rice for use as loan to other farmers and community residents during the peak of the hunger season.
Sampson Toko, Secretary General of the Gleyeekwa-doo (we are one) farmers group in Bunadin says their CGR was milling at least 300 bags of 25kg rice for sale to WFP.“We are providing WFP school feeding people with rice, beans and red oil that we ourselves produced. We are going to produce more because there is market to buy from us. One year from now we will increase our paddy rice production field from six to eight hectares.”
Up to 2017, WFP and the Ministry of Education provided daily school meals to over 120,000 students in 577 rural public primary schools in nine counties. Additionally, over 4,000 school-going girls received monthly rations of rice and oil under the WFP Girls take-home rations (GTHR) – aimed at boosting girls’ enrolment, attendance and retention.
The support was provided in areas where girl child enrolment was noticeably low as compared to boys. In late 2017, WFP experienced huge financial constraints that forced the organization to suspend school meals programme in early 2018.
The resumption of the programme in October 2018 was made possible through a multilateral donor support. WFP urgently needs financial support without which school meals programme will not continue beyond December 2018.WFP