This column is devoted to monitor and report on issues that are relating to food security in the Gambia as well as the interventions of Government and Non-governmental Organizations.

Training session underway

Globally, an estimated 805 million people are undernourished, and two billion people suffer from deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and Vitamin A. Deficiencies in micro-nutrients have serious implications for the health, survival, and optimal cognitive development of vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children in the first 1,000 days of life. Under-nutrition contributes to at least 45 percent of child deaths globally, and costs an estimated two to three percent of GDP in many low-income countries. It also diminishes an adult worker’s productivity by exacerbating disease or through chronic fatigue and reduced work capacity such as in the case of iron deficiency anemia.

Agriculture supplies the nutritious foods necessary for healthy and active lives. On the other hand, agriculture, if not managed well, can have inadvertently negative consequences on nutrition, such as water contamination, disease occurrence, food safety, and women’s time use (which, in turn, affects child care practices) — each of which is important for nutrition.

Agriculture, when done right, can maximize the impact of nutrition outcomes for the poor, while minimizing the unintended negative nutritional consequences of agricultural interventions and policies on the poor, especially women and young children.

Food and Agriculture Sector Development Project (FASDEP) aims to reduce rural household poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition through increased agricultural production, productivity and commercialization. The main outputs of the project include increased agricultural productivity and production through: (i) enhanced management of 3,000 ha and the development of an additional 200 ha under tidal irrigation; (ii) 155 ha of improved horticultural schemes and 60 ha of school gardens established; (iii) 200 fish ponds, 25 small ruminants, and 20 poultry schemes established; (iv) 120 agro-business enterprises established and supported, of which 60 percent will be owned by women; (v) 200 km of access roads rehabilitated; and (vi) 20 municipal market structures rehabilitated/constructed. The total number of beneficiaries of FASDEP is 240,000 people in the targeted regions, comprised of 150,000 women, 60,000 youths, and 30,000 men. In addition, FASDEP supports the School Feeding Program in 101 pre- and elementary schools for an estimated total of 35,000 pupils, and the development of four regional cereal banks that will be stocked with cereals during emergencies as a strategic approach to national food and nutrition security.

To support the investment interventions, $1.4 million has been allocated for TA activities developed and managed by the FAO.

Specifically, the TA aims to increase nutritional levels, food security, and incomes of vulnerable populations in the three GAFSP target regions through strengthening technical and organizational capacities of targeted stakeholders. Much of the TA capacity development activities will be based on farmer-field school and farmer-business school approaches, working particularly in support of members of smallholder farmer-based organizations.

The TA will also support reducing risk and vulnerability to disasters on a sustainable basis (such as drought and floods), through improving community resilience and household coping strategies, as well as supporting efforts in establishing a national social protection policy.

Technical assistance under the TA will provide advice and support to the National Nutritional Agency (NaNA) in the adaptation of the national nutritional primary level and early child development curricula; combined with this, the TA will support the design and implementation of a training programme for teachers and school managers for classroom and practical trainings on school farms and gardens.

TA will also support implementation of a training program (TOT) in community-based nutritional programs to strengthen knowledge, skills and approaches to nutrition and food security at local levels. The TA is estimated to directly benefit slightly more than 47,000 people living or working in the three target regions and 38,400 children of primary school and early childhood education ages. It is estimated that at least half of all beneficiaries of the TA will be women and youth.

In a bid to effectively implement the nutrition dimension of the Technical Assistance, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) conducted a four-day training of trainers’ workshop on Nutrition Education for Lower Basic Schools. The training, which was organized at the Transgambia Lodge in Pakalinding, Jarra West District, Central River Region of the Gambia, attracted 17 participants from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. According to the Organisers, improving nutrition is fundamental to achieving FAO’s vision of a world without hunger and that having physical and economic access to food on their own are not sufficient to ensure that people are food secure and well nourished. The national nutrition expert for FASDEP Technical Assistance, Yankuba Sawo, said the training seeks to capacitised the would be trainers to improved pupils` understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet, the importance of good nutritional practices as well as influence positive attitudinal and behavioural changes in their day to day nutritional practices at the home and in school. He said the nutrition education in lower basic schools is in line with FAO’s strategic objective for eradicating hunger and malnutrition, globally and that the purpose of the trainers training was to equip teachers, Headmasters and Headmistresses, Cluster Monitors on the knowledge of nutrition for them to implement the knowledge in the lower basic schools. Mr Sawo said the nutrition component of FASDEP Technical Assistance is jointly implemented by FAO in collaboration with the National Nutrition Agency and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. Malang Fofana, acting deputy executive director of NaNA, said the four-day training was needed to strengthen the teaching of nutrition education by using the most appropriate tools and avenues. Mr Fofana, who is also a public health nutritionist, said the participants’ utilisation of the knowledge gained from the training would go a long way in improving the nutrition status in schools.