with Abdoulie Dibba

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

 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.

Since 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, FAO in its drive to implement the Technical Assistance of the FASDEP Project, is training Headmasters and Headmistresses, Cluster Monitors on the knowledge of nutrition for them to implement the knowledge in the lower basic schools to ensure proper Nutrition Education in our school system.

One of such trainings was conducted in Janjanbureh from the 31st August to 4th September 2015.

During the training, Malang Fofana, acting deputy executive director of NaNA stated that the Government of The Gambia is highly committed to the achievement of the targets of Millenium Development Goals (MDG) 1 and 2, which are focused on eradicating  extreme hunger and achieving universal basic education and to this effect he said, the government is working closely with various stakeholders on several interventions towards achieving the MDGs with school feeding programme being one of the interventions within the Education Sector.

Mr Fofana indicated that evidence suggests that school feeding programs increase school attendance, cognition and educational achievement and that the provision of school feeding contributes to the net enrolment rate of children in the schools as school meals serve as an incentive and a safety net for parents to send their children to school.

Nutrition  education, he went on to say, form a critical foundation of every child’s health, growth and development and that Children who go to school hungry, or lack essential nutrieints in thier diets, are unable to learn effectively and thier participation in school and other social and learning activities are affected.

Mr Fofana asserted that the knowledge and experience of teachers is also critical in the teaching of nutrition to the children.

He said Nutritional status can be both the ‘cause’ and the ‘outcome’ of good or poor health. This is achieved by consuming food from the different food groups in their right proportion to function healthily and that the Knowledge and understanding on the types or kinds of food consumed facilitate the adoption of healthy eating habits.

The National Nutrition Expert for FASDEP Technical Assistance, Yankuba Sawo made the following statement on Friday 4th of September 2015 at the closing of the five days Nutrition Education training.

“Mr chairman and participants,

It is a great honor and privilege for me to preside over the closing ceremony of the five day training of trainers for the teaching of nutrition in Lower Basic Schools. First, I would like to extend to you greetings from the FAO Rep, who is unable to be here to be part of this ceremony. Also I am happy to extend to you, on behalf of WFP, thanks and appreciation for being part of this training.

“Mr chairman and fellow participants

Food and nutrition security is one of the themes of FAO and WFP and both agencies advocate for a hunger free world. People all over the world are entitled to access and afford food of highly nutritious and diverse diet at all times.

To this end, one of  FAO’s mission is to provide resources and technical support to improve agriculture for food and nutrition security and increase farmers’ income. WFP also plays a critical role in providing food for the vulnerable populations.

“Mr chairman and participants

Both FAO and WFP appreciate the partnership and corporation they enjoyed from the Government of the Gambia and through its relevant ministries, departments and partner NGOs. The two agencies acknowledge that for any meaningful development to take place, all players in development need to work closely together. The two agencies appreciate the collaboration of NaNA and MOBSE in the nutrition education.

“Mr chairman and participants

This training of trainer (TOT) workshop was jointly organized and supported by FAO and WFP as UN agencies with the spirit of delivering as one. FAO through its project called FASDEP and WFP implementing school feeding and nutrition education on behalf of MDG 1c have a common activity and therefore felt it necessary to implement together. The TOT is part of the schools nutrition education programme.

“Mr chairman and participants

Nutrition education particularly for school age children has become necessary because of the critical role of good nutrition for their health, education and wellbeing.

Young children are vulnerable to malnutrition, especially under nutrition. They are prone to malnutrition and wasting because of acute lack of food and lack of essential nutrients. They can suffer from chronic malnutrition due to inadequate food, lack of proper care and access to health services and adverse poor environment. School age children are affected by anemia and this affects children’s cognitive and learning ability. Their food requirement for growth is high. Children’s nutrient requirement for development, particularly for their brains for good learning ability is critical.

“Mr chairman and participants

Nutrition education for children is essential for the following reasons:

Learn about foods, their sources, and nutrient benefits to human body through their classroom lessons.

“Learn how to grow the different food crops in their gardens and school farms.

Appreciate that agriculture is an alternative for self-employment.

“We need to appreciate that it is through active and smart agriculture that we can achieve sustainable food and nutrition security.

Children need to adopt good nutrition behaviour and practices for life long better health and wellbeing.

“Finally Mr chairman and participants

To successfully achieve the noble goal of children adopting good nutrition behaviour, the role of teachers cannot be over emphasized. Teachers are agents of change. Nutrition is cross cutting as it involves food, health, care, sanitation and hygiene. All these have been covered during the training. When teachers are sensitized and trained on these, they will better impart the knowledge to the children. For these reasons, this TOT is organised.

“I am quite delighted for the dedication and professionalism that you have shown throughout the training period. You have shown interest and worked hard to use the very various micro-teaching styles to deliver the lessons on nutrition. I encourage you to hold working seminar at your various schools for your colleagues who were not able to attend this training. Share your knowledge and experience with them.

“A step down training will be subsequently organised for 120 teachers in the project regions of WCR, LRR and CRR (40 teachers in each region) for grades 2, 4 and 6 teachers. We solicit the support and cooperation of all teachers as well as the cluster monitors in delivering the nutrition education in schools.

“Thank you all for your kind attention.”

In declaring the training closed, the Regional Director of Region Five Ousman Bah stated that nutrition education is key to life and as such, this awareness about nutrition education needs to be filtered in all schools in The Gambia and to the grassroots level as this is a life-line thing.

He advised the teachers to be collaborating with the community in sensitizing the children on nutritional education, both in schools and at home.

Mr Bah thanked FAO in collaboration with WFP for coming up with this type of training as he put it, “the training on nutritional education is very important, and FAO and WFP worth to be commended for this initiative.”