By Sumner Kangbap
Dr. Francis Kai Kai, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development, has on Friday 11th October 2019 expressed extreme delight for the Japanese food aid that would contribute immensely to human capital development and underlined the need for the country not to depend solely only on its natural resources stating, “this is the premise.”
This expression was made in a statement at the signing ceremony (Exchange of Notes) of the Japanese Food Aid Grant to World Food Program (WPF) for the School Feeding Program at the conference hall of WFP, 69B Smart Farm, off Wilkinson Road in Freetown.
WFP will implement the school feeding program in 11 vulnerable chiefdoms in Pujehun and Kambia Districts where educational indicators (access and enrollment) of boys and girls, food insecurity and malnutrition indicators are among the worst in the country. It will target 33,000 primary school children.
Dr. Francis Kai Kai acclaimed the Japanese Government for upgrading the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to a full Country Office and hoped that Sierra Leone would benefit from more development aid from Japan.
He also revealed that his Ministry would soon commence popularization of the Medium-Term National Development Plan till December this year to close the gap as the people need to know about the plan for them to articulate their priorities for resource allocation for which the United Nations is firmly behind the initiative.
The Minister went on to state that the nationwide sensitization on the National Development Plan would commence in Kambia District next week and disclosed plans to establish a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to evaluate projects and their impact on the people as well as follow-up visits at district level that the people would appreciate as an accountable mechanism adding that even the food aid would be evaluated after two years to know its impact reiterating that service delivery is key.
He acclaimed WFP for graduating from a humanitarian to development organization and affirmed that WFP would be up to the task adding that the food aid would encourage local food production.
The World Food Program (WPF) Representative and Country Director in Sierra Leone, Mr. Housainou Taal expressed heartfelt congratulations on the successful convening of the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7) in August this year which he confirmed as the decade’s long sincere and steady commitment of Japan to African development from the early 1990s.
He added that Japan’s commitment to support Sierra Leone and other African countries is truly exceptional and second to none and commended the Government of Japan for its steady commitment and support to WFP food assistance operations in Sierra Leone for almost a decade amounting to almost US$25 million in total which exactly resonates with the TICAD commitment.
Mr. Housainou Taal further enlightened that the food aid grant is another generous contribution from the Government and people of Japan through the KR food aid grant of 200 million Japanese Yen or approximately USD2 million for the school feeding program which was announced during the bilateral meeting between the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinto Abe and President Julius Maada Bio at their side meeting of TICAD7.
He continued that the food aid grant would be used for school feeding, assisting 33,000 children in Pujehun and Kambia Districts asserting that this year’s food aid grant is different from those in the past as it includes not only international purchase of rice from Japan but also local purchase of rice from farmers that would pave the way for a sustainable national school feeding program.
According to the WFP Representative and Country Director, the school feeding program is the center of WFP’s country strategic plan 2020-2024 which has been designed through the National Zero Hunger Review that would be launched by the President on World Food Day next week highlighting that it is fully in line with the National Development Plan 2019-2023 which has Human Capital Development and Free Quality Education at its strategic core.
He assured that WFP would continue working with JICA in support of smallholder farmers to increase rice production as well as link them to the market reiterating that school feeding would provide a stable market for smallholder farmers disclosing that WFP has started working with a Japanese NGO, HANDS in School Gardens, and affirmed that school gardens are key to make school feeding more nutrition sensitive and promote healthier and more nutritious diet among households in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Housainou Taal also disclosed that on 16th September this year, WFP and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding to assist some 300,000 children in 7 districts with the Government’s budget dedicated to the national school feeding program and acclaimed Government’s strong commitment to feed children in schools in the same way as Japan trusted WFP as its partner to implement this KR food aid, the Government has also selected WFP as its partner of choice for the national school feeding implementation.
The Japanese Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Mr. Tsutomu Himeno disclosed that the food aid grant is part of his government’s commitment and good wishes from the people of Japan to Sierra Leone due to the cordial friendship between the two countries that has evolved over the years through conscious engagement citing President Bio’s visit to Japan this year that included the Minister of Development and Economic Planning during which they held a very successful bilateral meeting.
Mr. Tsutomu Himeno observed that the school feeding program is high on government’s agenda, very important for nourishment and education, affirmed that Japan has a long and successful relation with WFP and assured that the agreement would not only bring food from Japan but also empower local farmers adding that WFP is not only good at implementation but dependable.
Earlier, the Chairman of the program, Development Secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Umaru Conteh, recalled that President Julius Maada Bio campaigned on education as his flagship project, the reason the Ministry of Finance has allocated 21% of the national budget to education as a sign of government’s commitment underscoring that education is the only way to advance Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development.
Other dignitaries who made statements at the ceremony included the Director of Inspectorate in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Mr. Mohamed Sillah Sesay.
Highlight of the ceremony was the signing of documents and Exchange of Notes.