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Liberia Launches Home-Grown School Feeding Program

Liberia has launched its zero hunger strategic review report and is about to initiate its home-grown school feeding program. Under the Home – Grown School Feeding program, government will introduce mechanize farming in Liberia to help local farmers grow and produce more food, and then purchase these local produce to support school feeding programs throughout the country. The program took place on May 16, 2017 at the Monrovia City Hall in Sinkor.

The zero hunger strategic review project is in support of Goal 2 of the Sustainable development goals and focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Launching Liberia’s Zero Hunger Strategic Review report and home grown school feeding program, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the Review as a baseline and roadmap comprising actions that must be prioritized and taken to achieve success, and benchmarks to monitor progress. The Review also highlights key findings and challenges facing the agriculture sector of Liberia.

Although Liberia is endow with vast arable land, rainforests and abundant rainfall, more than 60% of our farmers live below the poverty line, with more than 50% of the population also living below the poverty line. The case of Liberia is arguable since unlike others, our situation can be related to the years of civil conflict followed by Ebola, years of recovery, reconstruction and now transition. The Ebola pandemic took its toll on Liberia’s economy, growth and development.

President Sirleaf credited her government for making considerable progress in tackling hunger and malnutrition adding “Working together with our partners, and through good policies and programs, we have increased food production, improved governance in the fisheries sector, and are seeing good results in the livestock sector.”

The President urged Liberians to invest more in agriculture to address the issue of food insecurity throughout this country. She said “more needs to be done in Grand Kru, River Gee, Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties where the levels of food insecurity are unacceptably high compared to other parts of the country”. National and international investments are needed in these counties to address the issue of mechanize farming and employment to increase agricultural production and enhance living conditions of rural dwellers.

Liberia imports two-thirds of its food as the country grows more rubber than its staple. President Sirleaf therefore wants urgent decisive action taken to “reduce the nearly US$250 million dollars” spent annually on food imports.

On the Home Grown School Feeding program, President Sirleaf noted that the Home-Grown School Feeding Program is Liberia’s own innovative attempt to link agriculture, nutrition and education – in order to encourage more children to go to school, enhance their nutrition, boost vegetable, cereal and tuber crops production, and support and economically empower smallholder farmers whose produce will be used to support the program.  The home-grown school feeding program is a joint multi-sectorial effort of several UN agencies and partners, including WFP, FAO, UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, AfDB, among others, as well as the Government and civil society organizations.

Also speaking at the Launch was Steven Were Omamo  - WFP Deputy Director for  Policy and Program. He emphasized the urgent need for action against food insecurity and hunger adding that that need is stronger now than ever before.

Making references to statistics, Mr. Omamo noted that over 20 million people are currently facing starvation, with nearly 75% of them in Africa. Nearly 90 million more, around the world, suffer extreme food insecurity brought on by conflict, adverse weather, and other disruptions; and almost 800 million people are chronically hungry.

According to Mr. Omamo, despite this bleak picture the world is more prepared to tackle hunger and food insecurity than at any time in recent history, adding “the consensus is wide and deep.”

Sustainable Development Goal 2 of the 2030 Agenda commits Countries and their partners to combining efforts and investments toward eradicating hunger, one of the most devastating forms of human suffering and misery. If and when fully implemented, the 17 Sustainable Development goals intend to reverse the current poor state of living standards and development of most underdeveloped/third world nations.

“In fact, the 17 Sustainable development goals/Agenda 2063 envisions a prosperous African continent, with the means and resources to drive its own development, with sustainable and long-term stewardship of its resources and where – in the context of this meeting – agriculture is modern and highly productive, with strong value addition, and food and nutrition security at individual, community, and national levels” says Mr. Omamo.

Mr. Omamo commended Liberia’s efforts toward poverty reduction and food security since the past ten years. “Since 2008, Liberia has been implementing several policies and strategies for food security and nutrition that foreshadowed the Zero Hunger agenda. The National Food Security and Nutrition Strategy, the Food and Agricultural Policy and Strategy, the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Vision 2030, and the Agenda for Transformation all contain priorities, thrusts, and activities that lay at the core of any strategy for Zero Hunger.”

Another member on the WFP delegation at the program was Mr. Peter Musoko, Deputy Regional Director at World Food Program - Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa. He commended Liberia’s commitment to the implementation of SDG Goal 2 which focuses on achieving zero hunger in Liberia. We are also pleased to note that the Strategic Review has identified Home Grown School Feeding as one of the mechanism suited to responding to the challenges posed by hunger, as it creates opportunities across the agricultural value chain and help bring education to school children.  

Mr. Musoko disclosed that Liberia was among few other countries that have reached this milestone, and therefore congratulated President Sirleaf, government and the leadership of the Zero Hunger Strategic Review team for the determination and quality of the report.

For his part Agriculture Minister Dr. Moses Zinnah noted that the launch of the Zero Hunger Strategic Report and the Home Grown School Feeling Program are 2 major steps toward achieving goal number 2 of the 17 sustainable development goals in Liberia.

The Zero Hunger Strategic review Report identifies the gaps, and challenges confronting Liberia’s agricultural sector, and makes recommendations as to the way forward to minimizing hunger and malnutrition (among women and children in particular), and achieving food security in Liberia.  

Dr. Amos Sawyer is lead convener of Liberia’s Zero Hunger Review team. The Team is comprised of an Advisory Board Chaired by Dr. Sawyer and Co-chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, and a technical committee headed by Subah Belleh and Associates. Subah Belleh and Associates did a summarized presentation of the Zero Hunger report which also recommended the School feeding program. The World Food Program is a major funder of activities of the Zero Hunger Review team.

A large number of ambassadors and international donor organizations’ representatives attended the program. In remarks, United Nations Secretary General Special Representative to Liberia Ambassador Farid Zarif recalled the saying that “the quality of a society is measured by the degree of care that it gives to its most venerable.”

Amb. Zarif encouraged government to continue its fight to improve the living standards of the masses particularly the least fortunate in our society. He observed that despite the numerous challenges, achieving zero hunger is a global priority plan, adding that the challenges are surmountable. He pledged the United Nations support to Liberia’s efforts toward fighting zero hunger but assuring food security.

He concluded by urging the Legislature to pass the Local Government Bill which seeks to empower the Liberian people through the decentralization program.

Representative Josephine Francis expressed sentiments around the need for Liberia to get involved in mechanized farmer to improve food production in Liberia.

The zero hunger program was attended by government officials, national and international partners, civil society including women and youth organizations.

 

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