By Suwaibou Touray
Officials of the World Food Programme, (WFP) Banjul Office made clarifications on a story published in Foroyaa Issue No. 161, 2014 captioned: “WFP Should Fulfill Their Part of The Bargain,” regarding the Home Grown School Feeding Program and refuted claims made by one Mr. Ba Saikou Kanteh that they have signed an agreement with the world body to purchase their rice product under the said program which they failed to do until they had to sell it to individuals and WAAPP.
The WFP officials made these clarifications at a meeting in their office at the UN House in Cape Point, Bakau attended by Victoria Ginja,WFP Country Director, Isatou Njie, WFP Public Relations Officer, Mr. Alagi Bah, Mr. Amadou M. Cham, WFP Focal Point at Kerewan, NBR, the Salikene Farmers’ Association president and member, Mr. Ba Saikou Kanteh and Mr Hydara respectively and Mr. Suwaibou Touray, Editor, Foroyaa Newspaper, among others.
The WFP PRO Isatou Njie, clarified that her office did not sign any contract agreement with the Salikene Farmers’ Association regarding the purchase of their rice. She said the WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are running the Home Grown School Feeding Program, (HGSFP). She intimated that instead of buying imported rice and other products, the HGSFP program would now purchase home grown or locally produced products and send it to schools to feed children.
The WFP PRO said farmers’ associations wishing to sell their rice and other products could contact WFP office after they have already milled their rice, who would go and inspect the product and upon satisfaction, they would then discuss the price. She said once agreement is reached on the price, they would then enter a contract agreement to purchase the product.
The WFP officials made it clear that the rice must be milled before they could even inspect it, let alone buy it.
“In the case of Salikene Farmers’ Association, the 3000 bags mentioned by Ba Saikou Kanteh in the said article was not milled and it was produced long before the commencement of the Home Grown School Feeding Program,” asserted PRO Njie. It was also made clear that in their collaboration with MoBSE, it is the latter that takes the LEAD; that WFP does not pre-finance the rice production for any farmers group.
On the issue of empowering the farmers to produce quantity and quality product, she indicated that the WFP is also in collaboration with the FAO and farmers associations could approach them to see how they could access funds.
“There is no need to have a contract with WFP prior to production and let the farmers work with Food and Agriculture Organization in terms of improving production,” said Victoria Ginja, WFP Country Director in Banjul.
According to Director Ginja, the Home Grown School Feeding Program is a Win-Win situation for all because prices are competitive and there are no middlepersons involved.
Mr. Ba Saikou Kanteh, the president of the Salikene Farmers Association explained that he does not mean to say that they have signed a contract with WFP to buy their rice. He said he was simply trying to say that farmers need their monies immediately after harvest but if the process is slow to do that they would be compelled to sell their produce elsewhere. He agreed that selling to WFP is a win-win situation for them too which they would prefer. He said he understands the process; that it is a good program since they are feeding their children at school and at the same time providing income to the farmers. He assured everyone that they would redouble their efforts to work with WFP/MoBSE to meet their required targets. He said the misunderstanding in the article is regrettable and unfortunate.
Mr. Alagi Bah said WFP is doing a great job and calls on all to cooperate to make the project a success.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr. Amadou M. Cham, WFP Focal Point in Kerewan, North Bank Region.
The WFP in partnership with the Government of the Gambia, the European Delegation to The Gambia and FAO , launched the Millennium Development Goal 1c Initiative aimed at improving food security through crop production intensification and school feeding in targeted regions.
This three-year project is funded by the European Union while FAO and WFP will provide technical assistance to the Government of the Gambia as implementing agencies.
Together with the MoBSE, WFP commenced the targeted school meals programme under the MDG 1c Initiative in North Bank and Central River Regions reaching 49, 783 children in 2012/2013. These are 2 out of 4 regions identified as most vulnerable by the 2011 Integrated Household Survey.
The goal of this 7.6 million Euros project is to improve food security and reduce hunger in the intervention areas thereby contributing to The Gambia’s aim to achieving the millinnium Development Goals 1c Initiative.