By Abubakarr Harding
Two representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) visited Pujehun district on Monday 18 July 2022 to see the implementation of the pilot Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF) by World Food Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, and the application of the Technical Package for Rice Production (T-PRP) by supported Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs). The T-PRP contains techniques in land preparation, variety selection, seedling raising, uprooting, and transplanting, weed and pest management, harvest and post-harvest, fertilizer management, and water management. All the techniques aim to create better environment for the rice plant to grow healthily and to utilize applied fertilizer effectively and efficiently. Whereas the HGSF pilot is aimed at moving away from a traditional school feeding model where the programme depends on imported food to locally produced, procured, and supplied by FBOs and women groups. The introduction of HGSF creates a predictable market opportunity for small-holder farmers. Both initiatives are funded by JICA.
The JICA-WFP joint mission was led by Mr. Yamazaki Hajime, Senior Deputy Director, Planning Division and Mr. Kasuya, in charge of West Africa., along with WFP and staff of the school feeding secretariat and Agriculture. The team visited two schools in Gofor and Zimmi in Makpele chiefdom, and one school in Futa, Pejeh Chiefdom. They also saw inland valley swamps where T-PRP is being implemented in Gofor, Helebu and BlamaNgiya.
They held meetings with the Head Teachers, School Management Committees, students and volunteer cooks on the implementation of the HGSF pilot. This model is currently piloted in 17 schools in Kambia and Pujehun districts. It will be replicated in other schools based on available resources.
“I observed that the school authorities, students, farmers and other stakeholders are very happy with home-grown kind of school feeding, especially with the variety of school menu. Through this programme, I believe the members of the community will be encouraged to diversify their diets,” said Mr. Yamazaki
The team also witnessed first-hand how farmer-based organizations (FBOs) in the various communities visited were applying knowledge gained from the T-PRP technique to increase their rice yields. Improved farming practices as advocated by the T-PRP, and good seeds have helped farmers to sell surplus rice and vegetables to WFP for supply to schools.
“The training we received has helped us to farm better and get improved harvests. Now we sell the surplus produce to the schools, and the children are receiving fresh and nutritious school meals” said Mamie Kemokai in Gofor.
Home-Grown School Feeding is a win-win situation that benefits the various stakeholders (Children, Parents, farmers and the community as a whole, etc.)