Improve production, increase harvests, feed schoolchildren: a wager won in Senegal
At 200 schools in the Kedougou region of Senegal, children are now eating locally-produced rice, thanks to a programme financed by Brazil and implemented by WFP and FAO. Some 1,000 small producers provided 250 tonnes of paddy rice—half their total production—to school feeding programmes last year, and farmers consumed or sold the rest of their harvest on the local market, increasing their income. The initiative is a prime example of South-South cooperation and of integrated development set to expand.
With support from the Government of Senegal, the programme, launched in 2012 under the name “Purchase from Africans for Africa,” strengthens food security as well as the economic and social development of rural communities.
Thanks to financing from Brazil, who developed a similar programme at home as part of its “Zero Hunger” initiative, producers in targeted regions were organized into farmers’ organizations. FAO provided training on agricultural techniques and seeds to farmers, while WFP purchased half of what they produced for schools meals programmes.
“We’re killing two birds with one stone : students receiving meals at school now eat locally-produced, high-quality rice, and by selling our excess production on local markets, we are building our financial resources,” explains Mamadi Diallo, the president of the rice producers’ union in Bandafassi, a district in the Kedougou region located 800 kilometers southeast of Dakar.
“Thanks to this new income, we will soon be able to take care of our needs and those of our children, without the help of FAO and WFP,” he continues.
The Senegalese government has supported the initiative and hopes to eventually take over management of the school feeding programme. “School feeding could play a central role in a national policy that promotes local cereals as a way generate additional income for local producers,” explained the Minister of Education Serigne Mbaye Thiam during a recent visit to Bandafassi with first secretary of the Brazilian embassy in Senegal Marco Sparano, WFP country director Ingeborg Maria Breuer, and FAO resident representative Vincent Martin.
“Combining our knowledge and expertise will allow populations in Bandafassi to be sure that their children are well-fed by providing them with high-quality food from farm to plate,” Mr. Martin explained.
The initiative will likely expand to other parts of Senegal. “The programme opens up new commercial opportunities for agricultural producers in the country, in addition to raising literacy levels and improving education results,” Ms. Breuer said.
“We remain convinced that countries of the global South can ensure their development while reinforcing South-South cooperation by fostering equal relationships and sharing our experiences, notably in family agriculture, rice cultivation, organic agriculture, and the purchase of agricultural equipment,” declared Mr. Sparano.
After a year of experimenting, the Purchase from Africans for Africa project will consolidate lessons from its inaugural year, expand crop area and continue to improve production. Farmer organizations will be equipped with reliable hullers, allowing farmers to transform crops themselves.
The programme will then be implemented in other regions, with the ultimate goal of turning over management to communities and Senegalese authorities to ensure its sustainability.