The fourth edition of the African Day of School Feeding, celebrated under the theme “Investing in home-grown school feeding for achieving Zero Hunger and sustaining inclusive education for all, including refugees, returnees and internally-displaced persons in Africa” was officially opened today by His Excellency Daniel Kablan DUNCAN, Vice President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, and celebrated under his distinguished patronage.
The African Day of School Feeding was instituted in January 2016 through Decision Assembly /AU/Dec. 589 (XXVI) by African Union Heads of State and Government in recognition of the immense value of home-grown school feeding (HGSF). Home-grown school feeding links local agricultural production to food procurement for schools, with direct benefits for smallholder farmers as well as for children.
The date marks the commitment of African countries to promoting home-grown school feeding programmes as a key strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The first edition of this celebration took place in Niamey, Niger, while the second and third editions were respectively organized in Congo and Zimbabwe in 2017 and 2018.
The event spanned three days, with the celebrations culminating on 1st March. It was attended by H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the African Union and H.E. Daniel Kablan DUNCAN, Vice President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire whose presence demonstrated the commitment of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to implement and sustain school canteens and school feeding programmes. The event was also attended by senior government representatives from African governments, African Union Commission Staff, development partners and members of the diplomatic corps.
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire has made education a priority and as such demonstrates its commitment through the implementation of a school feeding programme aiming to increase attendance rates in primary school but also give more chances to children from poor households to pursue their studies, thereby reducing failure and drop outs.
Taking the floor H.E. Daniel Kablan DUNCAN recalled the progress made by Côte d’Ivoire in promoting school feeding programs with statistics: the country currently has 5,688 school canteens including 5,422 canteens sponsored by the Government and the World Food Program to the tune of 16.2 billion CFA F. He added that the country is currently developing a National Investment Plan in Agriculture that will boost agricultural production and help to fight against food insecurity. He expressed his joy at the imminent establishment in Côte d’Ivoire of the Centre of Excellence to fight against hunger in West Africa.
H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology called for more investments in school feeding programmes. “If we are to produce the quality human virtues for the Africa We Want,” she said, citing the AU theme for 2019, “our school feeding programmes as well as other social interventions that promote access and success in education have to mainstream displaced persons”. “School feeding is definitely among the social protection systems that will make a critical contribution to meeting durable solutions to forced displacement and their causative social and environmental crises in Africa”.
Madame Kandia Camara, Minister of National Education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training reaffirmed the determination of the Government to build a quality education-training system, a cornerstone for the country’s development. “The country chose inclusive quality education for all children and adults, which takes into consideration the transformative needs of citizens, empowers them to contribute to the socio-economic development of their community and Ivorian society and provides them with competitiveness and technological innovation skills”. To achieve this goal, “school feeding policies become an important tool to stimulate the need for education services with regard to the target set: “by 2025, all the students in Côte d’Ivoire enrolled in basic education institutions should every day have a hot and balanced meal”.
Activities marking this celebration kicked off on 27 February with an experts’ meeting on the highlights of the School Feeding Cluster Strategy and Work Plan. The following day, a delegation visited N’Zikro, Aboisso to meet farmers who provide some of their crops, including bananas, cassava and corn, to school canteens in their village. The delegation also visited women who are transforming cassava into “Attieke” and providing hot meals to children in schools and discovered the production process they use. The third visit took place in a school canteen in N’Zikro where the delegation and the school children discussed the benefits of school feeding on their education.
“The commitment from African Ministers to make sure African children are getting the meals and support they need to thrive in school is extraordinary. I know that what is happening on this Africa Day of School Feeding will make a real difference in the lives of boys and girls throughout the continent. I look forward to working with the African Union and these country leaders to make sure school feeding programmes can be as effective as possible in helping African children reach their full potential,” said David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme. He was speaking at a parallel celebration hosted at the WFP Headquarters in Rome, Italy, attended by official representatives from Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo, as well as UN partners FAO and IFAD.
“In recent years, we have witnessed school feeding shifting from social protection programmes to a core feature of many countries’ strategies to ensure food and nutrition security for all,” said Daniel Balaban, Director of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil. “School feeding has become a key intervention for countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2, and the African Union has been a great advocate for the adoption of home-grown school feeding as a continental strategy to improve nutrition, increase smallholder farming and eliminate hunger”.
African nations continue to prioritise school feeding through policy and legislation, to improve retention, attendance and the performance of children in schools as well as creating economic growth. Across the continent, 39 countries have school feeding programmes managed and financed by governments; 21 of them have home-grown school feeding programmes. Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe all feed over 1 million. South Africa and Nigeria each feed more than 9 million children every day of the school year.
The fifth edition of the African Day of School Feeding could be organized in the Republic of Chad which has expressed interest in hosting this event next year.