DUSHANBE –The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Tajikistan held a policy conference on school meals as a first step for preparing the country to take over ownership of the project which boosts food security and school attendance.
The National Consultation on School Feeding in Tajikistan Conference discussed finding a sustainable future for the programme that WFP has been running in the country for the past 13 years.
“The recent research done together by WFP and the World Bank clearly demonstrates that the value of school meals is indisputable,” said WFP Country Director Alzira Ferreira.
Chief of the Tajik Education and Science Department Nozimov Abdulhamid opened the event by underlining the importance of WFP food assistance in eradicating poverty and food insecurity. Abdulhamid noted that the school meals scheme has been framed in national planning, for example in the National Education Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The meeting, co-sponsored by the Tajik Ministry of Education, drew nearly 30 participants including senior government officials, the Japanese Ambassador His Excellency Hiroyuki Imahashi as well as the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy Alexandr Averin whose country is the strongest financial supporter of WFP school meals scheme in Tajikistan. Russia has recently donated US$6 million to WFP operations in the country, US$5 million of which has been directed towards supporting school meals, WFP’s biggest programme activity in the country.
The consultation offered presentations on the future economic payoffs of school meals, its immediate benefits to 370,000 Tajik children and school assistants, its contribution to the social protection network of Tajikistan and the role of regional education departments. The Deputy Minister of Education Ismonov Fathiddin pledged his ministry’s commitment to the programme, which has drawn in increasing community and government support over the years.
During the half-day event, representatives from government and international organizations discussed the national ownership and gradual handover of the WFP school meals programme to the Tajik government.
The conference ended with a commitment from the ministries of Education, Economic Development and Trade, Health, and Social Protection to continue the dialogue on national ownership of school feeding as a lead-up to a second consultation in 2012 that will measure Tajikistan’s progress towards this goal.