By Prudence Arobani
New York – The World Food Programme (WFP) has urged governments in West Africa to spend more money on school meal programmes.
The global food relief agency said these investments not only contributed to children’s better future but also created local jobs around agriculture.
Abdou Dieng, WFP Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said: “It is a win-win opportunity which governments must seize.
“Children enjoy healthy meals that make it more likely that they will stay in school and learn for a better future, while jobs are created and businesses develop.”
He said increasingly, the food for the meals was sourced from smallholder farmers within the community.
According to him, the idea is that home-grown school meals provide local farmers and businesses with a predictable outlet for their products.
This leads to more stable incomes, more investment, higher productivity and the creation of jobs for youth and women in the communities concerned, he said.
He said in Burkina Faso, the introduction of yoghurt in school meals had had multiple benefits.
He added that a women’s group that collected milk locally had recently set up a processing plant for yoghurt that was now delivered to schools by young people on motorcycles.
“Some governments in the region are showing a growing interest in investing more in national school meals programmes.
“The Government of Benin has allotted 47 million dollars to feed 400,000 children over the course of five years in partnership with WFP, using a home-grown school meals model.”
“WFP’s regional school meals programme, which aims to assist about 2.7 million children this year, faces a 60 million dollars funding gap.
Without proper financing, the programme will fall short, leave many vulnerable students hungry and at risk of dropping out of school,” WFP said. (NAN)