National stakeholders comprising representatives of the Government of Liberia (GoL) and development partners have expressed commitment to support Home Grown School Feeding program, to ensure that every Liberian child receives quality education to reach their full growth and potential.
The stakeholders expressed the commitment over the weekend at the end of a one-day conference, to explore the opportunity of implementing the program in the country.
The Friday’s occasion was graced by an array of government officials, World Food Program (WFP) Regional Director for West and Central Africa, representatives of development partners, regional organizations and the United Nations (UN).
Closely aligned to and supportive of the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, School Feeding Program encompasses a sustainable mechanism for strengthening the nexus between food security, nutrition, agriculture and education, and improving the livelihood of the country’s growing youth population.
It was launched in May, 2017, alongside the national Zero Hunger Strategic Review Report, which was also launched by GoL and its partners.
Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Findley, who delivered the keynote address on behalf of President George Weah, underscored the importance of the school feeding program, and therefore wants the government to take it seriously, considering its social impact on health, education, gender and agriculture.
“This program is not only going to guarantee the future of our children, but it also provides the means for economic growth and development, most especially the rural people, because if we take ownership of the program, we will ensure that farmers produce more food to earn income to support their families,” Findley said.
He then challenged government and partners to remain committed to the implementation of the program, despite the economic constraint facing the country.
WFP’s Regional Director Abdou Dieng, who spoke on behalf of United Nations Development Partners, said that the conference is meant to demonstrate the commitment of GoL and partners, to ensure that Liberian children are able to contribute to the social prosperity of the economy even now and in the years ahead.
Dieng described the school meal program as a fundamental investment to developing the children’s future, to improve the health of the child, increase enrollment, and retention rate in schools and ensure food security.
“A research shows that the cost benefit analysis of school meal ensure that every US$1 invested into the program will generate US$6 as a recovery return. Moreover, it enables children to reach their full potential in education, which serves as mechanism in sustaining lasting peace. This is why both the government and partners have recognized the need to ensure that school meals become sustainable,” he said.
Mr. Dieng assured that the program will also ensure that smallholder farmers are supported to find market for their produce.
“With the majority of smallholder farmers being women, this initiative will serve to promote gender equality in agricultural activities to produce more food for income generation,” he said.
He expressed the UN system’s gratitude for the government to identify the school feeding program as part of its “Pro-poor Agenda.”
Education Minister Ansu Sonii, said that the ministry recognizes efforts of various partners to the school feeding program, and assured them that the government was making the necessary preparation to extend the program to all schools, mainly at the primary level.