The Gambia became a stage for debates about social protection strategies from 2 to 4 December, when three different events took place in Banjul. The government of The Gambia organized an event to validate the country’s National School Feeding Action Plan, and held the Third National Consultative Forum on Social Protection. The country also hosted a technical workshop on how to build synergies in social protection programmes, for participants from Ethiopia, Brazil, Mozambique, Kenya, and The Gambia.
In 2012, WFP and the government of The Gambia reached a common agreement on a transition from a donor-supported towards a fully nationally owned school feeding programme, by 2020. The government requested support from the Brazilian government and the WFP Centre of Excellence to implement the country’s strategies to establish the foundation for this programme.
The process is underway for the development of a National School Feeding Policy, led by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. Initiatives such as the development of regional capacities for school feeding management, the establishment of school gardens in over 100 schools, and the mobilization of resources are already happening, and a local procurement feasibility study was conducted nation-wide.
A consultant did an independent assessment of the programme in November 2014, and based on the findings the School Feeding Action Plan was updated. To present this new action plan to relevant stakeholders, the government of The Gambia organized a meeting on 2 December, when participants agreed on the priorities for 2014 to 2016 and discussed the technical assistance to the National School Feeding Programme by the WFP Centre of Excellence during the transition process. Participants also validated the consolidated action plan.
The Third National Consultative Forum on Social Protection took place in 3 December, and the main theme was Social protection: making it work for families. The opening ceremony had the participation of The Gambia’s vice-president and minister of Women’s Affair, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, the ministers of Health and Social Welfare, Finance and Economic Affairs, and Agriculture, and the Centre of Excellence’s head of programme, Christiani Buani.
In her keynote speech, the vice-president said that providing social protection is the ultimate goal of the government and its partners, especially for the most vulnerable families. She highlighted that social protection requires the government to establish more resilient and inclusive programmes and systems anchored on four key elements: poverty and risk reduction; inclusive growth and capacity building; human security as a basic right; and contribution to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Christiani Buani said that putting in place effective social protection systems with investments in safety nets have proved to be a crucial strategy to promote food and nutrition security and to fight hunger and poverty. She highlighted that south-south cooperation is a vital tool to promote the exchange of innovative solutions between countries that are building their paths towards sustainable development and stressed the commitment of the Centre to work together with these countries to build sustainable and nationally owned programmes and policies for social protection.
After presentations and debates on the status of the Gambian programmes and on the participation of civil society, participants made key recommendations. The recommendations include: the need for a new institutional arrangement and the creation of a ministry for social development, following Brazil’s example; the need for the creation of an inclusive social protection programme that contemplates persons with disabilities and living with HIV/AIDS; the focus on the most vulnerable populations; and the strengthening of institutional capacities of those in the frontline of social protection service delivery in the Gambia, especially the Department of Social Welfare.
South-south policy dialogue
On December 4, The Gambia hosted the first technical workshop of the Partnership for National Social Development Initiatives (PNSDI), a partnership between the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger, DFID and the Brazilian Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS). The project aims to support the establishment of social development programmes to reduce poverty and hunger in developing countries through south-south cooperation.
The project works with five countries, and four of them were present at the workshop: the Gambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mozambique. Participants presented their social protection national strategies and discussed ways of creating synergies among programmes. They pointed out the mains challenges involved in bringing together social protection initiatives conducted by different governmental areas, such as agriculture, health, and education.
Another topic of discussion was the participation of non-governmental actors, their potential roles and the opportunities they create. Countries’ representatives also highlighted how the PNSDI project can support their ongoing processes of creating new approaches for social protection.
Brazil was represented in the event by the National Council of Food and Nutritional Security (CONSEA), the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, and the Centre of Excellence against Hunger. The WFP regional office for West Africa, UNICEF also sent representatives to the event. The next technical workshop will happen in March, 2015.