School Feeding Programme key to attaining the MDGs
Takoradi, Nov. 18, GNA - Ms Betty Bosomtwi-Sam, Deputy Western Regional Minister, on Tuesday said the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), has the potential to reduce hunger, malnutrition and therefore attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She said the programme could improve food security and serve as a yardstick for measuring the achievements of the MDGs on hunger, poverty and education.
Ms Bosomtwi-Sam said this at a day's sensitization workshop for regional and district level stakeholders organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Takoradi.
She said the GSFP had also proven to be an effective strategy for increasing enrolment, attendance, retention and even performance of school children in deprived communities.
According to her, enrolment in the pilot schools rose by 20.3 per cent compared to 2.85 per cent in the non-GSFP schools while attendance also increased by 39.9 per cent.
The primary aim of the GSFP, she stated, was to contribute to the reduction of hunger and malnutrition, improve health status of school children as well as support local farmers by the use of local food stuffs in order to maintain food security in communities in a more sustainable manner.
She said one significant aspect of the GSFP was the emphasis on locally produced foodstuffs with a target to procure at least 80 per cent.
Ms Bosomtwi-Sam said this not withstanding the GSFP had been fraught with corrupt practices and difficulties, which threatened the survival of the programme.
She, therefore, called on the monitoring authorities to adopt effective measures to ensure transparency and accountability on the part of implementing schools, the district assemblies and the caterers.
She regretted that though the concept targeted rural, deprived and poor communities, its implementation had been tilted to favour urban schools and thereby hampering the overall objective.
Giving the background to the programme, Mrs Irene Messiba, Assistant Director of the Ministry of Local Government said it was piloted in 10 schools in 2005 as a strategy to increase domestic food production, improve household incomes and food security in deprived communities.
She said since the districts are the direct beneficiaries of the GSFP, they should devise ways and means that should ensure that they owned the programme.
Mrs Messiba said the national secretariat would continue to monitor, organize and implement periodic performance mechanisms as well as ensure effective collaboration with District Implementation Committees (DICs).
She urged the DICs to ensure regular update of enrolment figures in order to check and correct imbalances in the payment system to caterers.
Mrs Messiba called for the formation of farmer based organization with direct link with the GSFP secretariat to ensure that the programme achieved its aim of buying local produce.
Mr Akwasi Afrifa-Mensah of GSFP National Secretariat tasked all district assemblies to open special school feeding account into which feeding funds from GSFP and the Ministry of Local Government could be lodged.
He also called on them to prepare and submit to the GSFP Secretariat, quarterly report to aid the Secretariat in its monitoring and evaluation exercise.