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A unique view of all the ways WFP is assisting millions of people worldwide.

03/29/2017 - 11:10

In the conflict-affected areas of Central Mindanao, WFP provides hot and nutritious meals to over 60,000 children each school day, allowing students to focus on their studies rather than their empty stomachs. But school meals don’t just fill stomachs – they help keep students in school for a chance to maximize their opportunities to obtain an education. This is where one of the project’s key stakeholders, the teachers, come into play. As the saying goes, “A student is only as good as his/her teacher.”

Giselle, a teacher in Maguindanao, monitors students during a test, ready to clarify any questions.

A Noble Profession

Giselle and Wilma have been teachers for 20 and 13 years respectively, yet they still recall what ignited their passion for the job. “It’s the children living in less fortunate communities who inspired me to become a teacher,” said Giselle, who works at Tenongol Elementary School in Upi, Maguindanao. “When you get to know them and see what they can do, you’re able to connect with them and in turn learn how to guide and teach them.”

Wilma always wanted to be a teacher: “Even when I was just a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a teacher. I grew up wanting to teach prospective learners and providing them with the same experience I had in school as a child. It’s truly a noble profession.”

Wilma always wanted to be a teacher. She teaches Math, English, History and other subjects.

Despite loving the job, the two multi-subject teachers admit there are challenges. “I always want to do my job to the best of my abilities and to do it the right way, and that takes time whether it’s creating a lesson plan or the visual aids that go along with it,” said Giselle. Both also have difficulties traveling to and from their schools on bad roads and in adverse weather conditions.

Still their love for their students and teaching brings Wilma and Giselle back to the classroom. “We need to give this profession everything we can,” Giselle added. “Having taught a student who comes from a less-fortunate family, my greatest achievement is to see them now as a successful working professional.”

Wilma with some of her students as they enjoy their hot, nutritious meals at Banisilon Central Elementary School, Lanao del Norte.

School Meals Impact

WFP has worked with the Department of Education and local schools to provide school meals for more than ten years. Both teachers recall how the project has improved their student’s performance in the classroom. “We used to have a lot of kids who were malnourished, so they didn’t have the strength or they weren’t healthy enough to come to class,” said Giselle. “A number of them would only be in school for half of the day then after their morning classes, they would go home and miss the rest of their lessons due to hunger and sickness.”

Giselle shows a spoonful of beans and vegetables served as part of the nutritious school meal her students receive.

When the project was implemented here at Banisilon Central School, it didn’t take long before we observed that our students were more energetic. Their attendance, participation and grades have greatly improved,” said Wilma.

The overall performance of participating schools has improved too, with Banisilon Central School’s National Achievement Test progressively increasing and Upi Elementary School reaching the top spot in the achievement test throughout the entire district.

Story by Anthony Chase Lim, with inputs from WFP Philippines programme officers, Fahima Abdulaziz and Marilou Cezar.

This Women’s Month, the World Food Programme (WFP) highlights the important role that educators play in the success of the School Meals project. Elementary school teachers Giselle and Wilma have both seen and contributed to the positive effects of the project.

03/09/2017 - 12:51
School Meals

The World Food Programme in partnership with the Government of Kenya has provided hot lunches to school-going children in Kenya since the 1980s.

Together, WFP and the Government provide meals to 1.5 million children, every school day, with more than 1 million children benefitting from the government-led programme.

Initially, WFP solely provided the support for this programme with donor funds. But a more sustainable model needed to be in place. The transition of school meals to Government ownership started in 2009, with the launch of a national home-grown meals programme, a model which allows the Government to transfer cash to schools instead of in-kind food deliveries.

Video: Home-grown school meals in Kenya

This model was successfully implemented in the marginal agricultural areas. Here, markets are well developed and schools can readily access food commodities.

Transitional cash transfers to schools

To help prepare schools in arid areas to integrate into the national home-grown meals programme, WFP has introduced ‘transitional cash transfers to schools’ in each county for one year before they are handed over to the government.  An intensive package of support to schools, parents, teachers and government officials ensures the new cash-based model is understood and operational. This includes training on transparent tendering, evaluating of bids, record keeping, and proper food storage, hygiene and quality control.

Isiolo, Samburu and Tana River counties have all successfully transitioned from WFP-support to the national programme since 2013. Turkana is in the process: 113 primary schools (teaching 30,000 pupils) in Turkana North, Turkana West and Kibish sub-counties of Turkana are already receiving cash to purchase food locally, instead of having the food delivered each term. Marsabit County is the next to move to the cash-based model in May, when schools open for term 2.

Lokwanya primary school, 25 kilometres west of Kakuma in Turkana County started receiving assistance through the WFP school meals programme six years ago. In the final school term of 2016 (September-November), the cash transfer model was introduced.

“We now sit together and decide on the type and amount of food to buy; we advertise and award the tender, and when the food is delivered, we check to confirm that it meets the standards. If it is damaged, we send it back to the supplier,” said Vincent Lochol Edome, a parent at Lokwanya school.

Strong ownership

Transitional cash transfers mirror the home-grown school meals model. The aim is to provide a meal to children at school which supports education achievements while also stimulating local agricultural production through purchase of food from smallholder farmers and local food suppliers.

“The community is very interested in the school meals programme because they are involved at all levels. They own the process,” said Samuel Ipaso, the Chief Education Officer for Turkana North.

With cash transfers there are added economic benefits.

“The schools are now buying food directly from the local farmers, and this will promote the economy and promote the agricultural sector,” said Leah Rotich, the Director General in the Ministry of Education, speaking while officiating a handover ceremony in Samburu County.

“School meals help curb malnutrition among school-going children and the home-grown model is going further and contributing to better food security in the counties,” she added.

Important safety net  

School meals protect vulnerable children from hunger and offer a regular source of nutrients essential for the mental and physical development of young children. A full stomach gives children an opportunity to focus on learning at school.

 “The school lunch gives us strength. When we are strong, we are able to learn,” said Francis Kachoda, a 13-year-old class-5 pupil at Lokwanya primary school. “When I grow up, I want to become the president of Kenya.”

A daily school meal provides a strong incentive for families to send their children to school and keep them there. It helps to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and it also improves cognitive abilities. 

Over the years, school meals have helped a countless number of Kenyans get an education and make a good life for themselves. This safety net is indispensable.

The World Food Programme and the Government of Kenya continue to provide schools meals across the arid and semi-arid areas and in the poor informal settlements of Nairobi. The national home-grown school meals programme in Kenya is now reaching more than one million school-going children in Kenya, while WFP complements efforts in hard-to-reach areas, feeding an additional half a million.

03/08/2017 - 16:24
Focus on Women

Noreen fled South Sudan with her two sons in January, arriving at Palorinya settlement, Northern Uganda with just the clothes on their backs. Palorinya opened in December 2016 and now hosts around 135,000 refugees. As a member of the Food Management Committee, Noreen represents her community of 100 people living in Zone I.

“As a member of the Food Management Committee, I like that I can make a difference within my community,” explained Noreen. “I am here on the days when WFP is distributing the food and I can answer any queries or problems which people are having. Some people like beans others like peas, I just listen and say I will represent them by giving their feedback to WFP.”

Food Management Committees are elected within refugee communities in Uganda to make sure they own the process of food delivery and communicate on behalf of WFP. They spread the word on food distribution dates and then oversee on the day at every stage from offloading food from the trucks to supporting vulnerable persons. 


If a man can do this, then why can't I?

In South Sudan it is uncommon for women to participate in any formal work.  Noreen explained that she was inspired to join the Food Management Committee as she wanted to show the women in her community that things can be different and women should actively be involved, especially when it comes to food.  

“Food is life. We have to be there as women, the ones cooking for our families, the experts on what is good and bad food – we must be part of the committee to observe that the food given to us is good enough.  When you lack certain things, you get sick. Without a balanced diet – our bodies will fail us,” said Noreen. 

Noreen and her fellow committee members from the refugee community oversee the weighing of the food. They check that the right ration is going to the right family size. Food distribution days are long for her and her colleagues, often starting at 8am and not finishing until after 6pm.  

“Women should stand together every day, participate and be given the same jobs as men do. This does not mean we have to disrespect our men, the job opportunities should simply be the same,” a simple, yet powerful message from Noreen.  


Story by Claire Nevill

WFP supports 1.1 million refugees in Uganda with life-saving food assistance, three times more than this time last year. In 2016, Uganda received the single largest refugee influx from South Sudan in its history with over 489,000 new arrivals. Eighty-six percent of the new refugees are women and children. On International Women’s Day, Noreen – a South Sudanese refugee tells WFP why she stands up for the rights of her community on food.

03/08/2017 - 05:24

38 year-old Khin lives in Yangon, where her father owns a car rental agency. In 2001, she graduated from the Dagon University with an honours degree in chemistry. The study of molecules and compounds may be worlds apart from driving cars professionally, but both show Khin's determination not to let tradition stop her from pursuing her dreams. In following in her father’s footsteps, she chose to pursue her long-held passion for cars.

With encouragement and support from parents and friends, she dared to challenge stereotypes and apply for the position with WFP and got confirmation of her success in January 2017.  As the first female driver not only in WFP, but also the entire UN system in Myanmar, the Gender Team was excited to chat with Khin about her first impressions and observations working in a traditionally male-dominated field. 

Ms Khin driving a WFP staff member to a meeting. Photo: WFP/Anna Zingg

What is it like being a female driver, particularly in a male-dominated environment?
Many people expect to hear that being a female driver is tough and that I face constant harassment. But I have never thought of my profession like that. Being a female professional car driver is all that I know. I expect the slightly surprised looks when passengers first see me opening the back door for their convenience. But other people may automatically consider me as a role model for other women and girls. It is like every other job with its ups and downs. 

What has been your experience so far working as a driver?
I have been driving and working in my family’s car rental business for 14 years. Sometimes, I had to go to distant and dangerous destinations such as the mountainous and border areas in Chin and Shan States. In addition, as the eldest daughter in my family, I was the one to manage the family business while my father was on trips. 

Why WFP? Did you have any particular reason for your interest in working with WFP?
The reason I wanted to work for WFP is its mandate to fight hunger in my country. I am happy to participate and contribute even as a driver to ensure food security for all the people in need. I also believe that gender equality, which is a challenge in Myanmar, is one of WFP’s main priorities in achieving zero hunger. 

Why are there so few female drivers in Myanmar, in your opinion?
The traditional perception prevails that driving a car is a man’s job and dangerous. The majority of people still strongly believe that women are responsible for domestic chores and that driving is risky and not suitable for women. Moreover, we just started driving cars with automatic gear within the last few years, which is one of the main factors of the rise in female drivers in Myanmar.

What needs to change to have more public female drivers in Myanmar?
Create job opportunities and support them if and where required. Especially security for female drivers is important. I encourage all women to look for the work opportunities of their dreams if they possess the required qualifications, even if the positions are unusual. 

Ms Khin checking a car’s oil with team member in the WFP garage. Photo: WFP/Anna Zingg

WFP’s Work on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Myanmar
WFP in Myanmar has given special attention to gender through its policies and was selected for the Gender Excellence Award 2015-2016. WFP  is committed to addressing gender disparities in staffing and to champion gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its operations in Myanmar. Khin’s story is positive but the challenge remains whether or not broader society is willing and able to support women embracing alternative gender roles.

When WFP in Myanmar informed Ms Khin La Pyae Won Myint Aung that she was selected for the position of driver in the WFP Country Office in Yangon, it was a dream come true. She has always had a passion for cars so was thrilled to have the opportunity to make a living by driving. The sense of accomplishment of getting a new job was enhanced by the feeling that, in doing a job typically dominated by men in Myanmar, she was also striking a blow for gender equality. 

03/08/2017 - 04:21

Bhawana Thapaliya first joined WFP in 2008, where she worked on refugee operations. Today, she works as a Logistics Associate in WFP’s Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) team.  

“I gained my hands on experience in handling logistics work for the EPR team when the earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015” says Bhawana. Bhawana and her team began working at the Humanitarian Staging Area (HSA) within forty-eight hours of the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripping through the Himalayan nation on 25 April, 2015.  

“It was difficult for me to leave my family back at home and go to work. My parents were not happy with that. But what could I do? When duty calls, whether you are a man or a woman, you have to fulfil your responsibilities” she says. Bhawana's work illustrates how Nepali women are breaking traditional stereotypes and changing their roles in the workforce. “Transportation of food and humanitarian relief material via tractors, porters, mules and dzoes is usually managed by men in Nepal. But WFP empowers and trains women to do this kind of job” says Bhawana. 

[quote|“What I believe is that if we have a dream to achieve something, we should go for it. We should not be discouraged because of our gender. As it is said, millions of drops of water make the ocean, if all the women are united then we can change the world and the traditional thinking of the people”]Nepal is among the top ten most disaster-affected countries in the world, both in terms of mortality and number of events. Localized, recurrent disasters often threaten sustainable development – for example by damaging vital infrastructure or destroying livelihoods. Training and capacity building are critical elements in creating a state of readiness and gearing up to prepare for the next emergency. 

Today, Bhawana and other members of her team are working on improving local stakeholder’s capacity by providing them with essential emergency related training and workshops. “The more people and institutions know about emergency plans, priorities and who is doing what, the more lives can be saved by saving time in responding in the appropriate way” said Thapaliya. “We are also encouraging more women from government, security forces, and humanitarian agencies to participate in such trainings as it is critical to have women in the front line of any disaster relief work” she added. 

In her two years with the EPR team, Bhawana has travelled through the flat plains of Southern Nepal to the rolling Himalayas. She has been able to learn about Nepal’s unique topography which provides extraordinary logistical challenges to move commodities across the country. 

When asked what she enjoys most about her job she highlights two aspects - working during emergencies to provide lifesaving assistance and participating in trainings. Most recently she trained as a forklift operator, becoming the only licenced female forklift operator in Nepal.  

Although Nepal has made great strides in women’s representation in parliament in recent years, gender inequality is still a major problem, shaped by deeply engrained socially constructed gender norms and expectations concerning the roles and behaviours of girls, women, boys and men. In a country where most vehicles, but particularly forklifts and tractors, are driven by men, providing women the opportunity to train as forklift operators is a big step forward for gender empowerment. 

“Getting this certificate itself is a great achievement. But being a woman and being in a country where it is said that a job of a forklift operators is only for men and not for women, it gives you immense satisfaction to break that traditional stereotype” she says. “In many developing countries such as Nepal, women are not encouraged to pursue this kind of profession as it requires physical strength and technical skills to handle machinery. But I think women can equally qualify for such jobs.  I was surprised that I am the only female candidate for this training. I have great pride in this achievement and I hope that it will encourage other Nepali women to change their roles in the work place by breaking traditional stereotypes” she added.

The logistics industry is generally seen as a man’s world. Typically, it is men that manage, receive, supply and transport goods. It is rare to find women involved in logistics work, particularly in traditionally patriarchal countries like Nepal where women’s work is often confined to household chores. WFP Nepal’s Logistics Unit proves an exception to the rule. The office actively hires women to be part  of the team and provides them with skills and trainings to build their logistics capacity.  

03/07/2017 - 13:52
Cash and Vouchers, Food For Assets, Preventing Hunger

Christine Nthenya Mutua is not fazed by the current drought. While many of her neighbours wait for relief assistance, she still has grain to sell, a cow that gives her some milk, and a bull that brings income from ploughing land.

Christine lives in Kithuki village in Makueni County, a marginal agricultural county that has not been spared by the drought. Most farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture while keeping a few animals.

In this region WFP supports over 47,000 people through asset creation activities aimed at strengthening communities’ resilience to climactic shock.  WFP provides people with a monthly food ration in return for participation in activities promoting dryland farming technologies such as zai pits, sunken beds, terraces and farm ponds.

Farm ponds

Christine and her husband Bernard Mutua Nguku are among about 200 farmers in Makueni County who have adopted the use of farm ponds for crop irrigation. This water harvesting technology has proved to be climate resilient.

“Before we dug the farm pond, we used to struggle like everyone else. It was difficult putting food on the table let alone meeting other family needs,” said Christine. “Getting a decent harvest was a matter of luck.”

Christine and Bernard donated a section of their farm for use as a demonstration plot. Working in groups of five to 10, the farmers in Kithuki village developed a farm pond with a capacity of 250,000 litres or 250 cubic metres. A farm pond this size is sufficient to water high value horticultural crops on a quarter of a hectare till maturity, which takes about three-months.

“After a little rain, the pond collected enough water allowing us to water crops to maturity. The harvest was impressive and this motivated me to dig a second water pond.”

Curbing water loss

Farm ponds often lose water quickly if they are not lined and if left uncovered.

“We are working with partners and farmers to standardise the design, construction and use of farm ponds to support agricultural enterprises. Some of the improvements include silt traps to avoid clogging, lining to stop seepage, and covering with shade nets to cut evaporation and maintenance costs,” explained Charles Songok, Policy Programme Officer with WFP.

Through WFP-supported asset creation activities, Christine and Bernard received a plastic sheet for lining her second pond and a shade net for a roof.

Her farm pond filled up halfway during the October-December rains and she estimates that the remaining water could last till the onset of the long rains.


“The secret to my success is this farm pond. With just the little rains that we received late last year, I still have enough water left to irrigate my tomatoes and onions,” said Christine.

Using a hand pump, Christine draws water from the covered farm pond into an elevated tank. The water flows by gravity through the drip lines to the farm where she is growing tomatoes, kale and onions.

“I opted for tomatoes because they fetch more money in the market,” she said. “I use the sukuma wiki (kale) for my family’s meals, but still, there is plenty. I take some to the market. I don’t buy vegetables anymore,” said Christine proudly.

Creating a better life

In just four years, Christine and her husband have managed to turn their luck around thanks to the dryland farming techniques. Their first windfall came about when they sold hay from a plot of pasture making about 100,000 Kenyan shillings (US$ 1,000). With this new cash inflow, they bought a bull, a tank to store roof water for domestic use, and managed to improve their house.

“We rely on this farm for all our needs, including paying school fees,” said Bernard. “My wife has been active in the asset creation activities, and now I see it pays off. I’m supporting her work.”

Christine is still part of the asset creation activities, but says that now she feels self-sufficient.

“I would like to offer my place to a more needy family. I’m grateful that this project has brought us out of dependency to a level where we can support others,” she said.

Through this project, Christine was also trained on the benefits of group savings and is now a member of a village savings and loan group, where she can access credit at a very low interest rate to expand and sustain her farm enterprise.

“We eat better and more nutritional foods than before. We couldn’t afford vegetables on a daily basis, but now I go to the market to sell, not to buy.”

As the effects of drought continue stifling crop and livestock production across Kenya, some farmers in the worse affected areas have managed to beat this scourge. Having adopted small-scale dryland farming technologies, these farmers are able to continue feeding their families with produce from their farms. 

02/23/2017 - 12:52

Situated on the northern curve of Somalia’s coastline, Bossaso is a major seaport, baked by year-round sunshine and refreshed by sea winds blowing in off the Gulf of Aden.

It may sound idyllic but Bossaso is the scene of a seriously impressive hybrid renewable energy system that was installed by WFP’s IT emergency response capacity, the Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support team (FITTEST) exactly three years ago. The idea was to provide clean power to the WFP compound, including the warehouse.

This hybrid system consisted of a combination of solar panels, wind turbines, generators and grid power and will use the renewable energy first. Only when the load exceeds what the system was designed for, are the generators and grid power used.

On 23 January 2017, the project hit a major milestone when the dashboard – a platform that remotely monitors the energy savings – showed savings of 381,375 kg of carbon dioxide, a volume equivalent to removing 35,000 WFP vehicles from the roads. The projected lifetime savings of US$1.26 million is equivalent to feeding 13,872 schoolchildren for a year.

The impact then is great.

Not only is the system greener and more eco-friendly, it has made a massive impact on the lives of WFP staff working in the office and warehouse. Before the project, the warehouse had unreliable access to city power run on old generators –major pollutants. Being situated close to the port, the warehouse was vitally important for WFP staff to safely store food destined for Somali people in times of emergency. The cost of running the warehouse was also extremely high due to the sheer amount of electricity required.

“The staff at the warehouse needed to be able to operate safely so we had to design something that would provide lighting, security lighting, air-conditioning and extra safety, day and night,” explains Macneal Marwa, a 38-year-old WFP technician drafted in to assist FITTEST in installing the system.

All office lights, air conditioning and security lights are now supported by solar power. Security, too, around the warehouse has improved greatly as the lighting systems are always on, day and night. Best of all in terms of staff safety is that the entire hybrid system can be managed remotely, from Nairobi.

Projects like this reflect the unflagging efforts of WFP staff to innovate and implement new projects that revolve around protecting the environment to ensure that WFP leaves a more sustainable, greener footprint in the countries it serves.


This week, WFP will present new Environmental and Climate Change policies for Executive Board approval, and will also showcase a selection of its achievements that embody our vision for a WFP where environmental considerations – including the impact of climate change on food security – are mainstreamed throughout our programming and operations worldwide.

02/15/2017 - 08:24
Food For Assets

Traditionally people in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya have been highly dependent on livestock for survival and it is a measure of wealth for the family. Usually women could not lay claim to property, particularly livestock, but in Oldonyiro village in Isiolo county, things are changing.  Naipaari Lengirinas is one of the 127 people – mostly women – working on WFP-supported asset creation activities.

“We come together in groups of about 10 and buy livestock, which we later sell at a profit. Right now we have seven goats and one bull,” explained Naipaari Lengirinas. “We grow our own fodder. Our animals don’t have to roam far in the bush,” she said.

Thanks to a WFP supported programme Naipaari and her neighbours can now afford to keep their animals near their homesteads and provide enough pasture to keep them healthy.   This has been vital in their survival as a widespread drought grips the country following a poor short rains season in 2016. Livestock prices are plummeting as the body condition of animals worsens and most herders are having to walk long distances in search of water and pasture, often searching for months. 

Fodder for food

The community chose to grow African foxtail (cenchrus ciliaris) and Massai grass (eragrotis superba). Fodder production is one of several activities under WFP’s asset creation. These activities cushion families from the impacts of natural hazards such as drought by providing an extra source of income and food.

“We initially tried planting food crops such as cowpeas, green grams and black beans, but the harvest was poor,” said Josephine Lesokoyo, the group’s secretary. “That is when WFP introduced varieties of grass for livestock. The harvests have been very good.”

In a year, the group harvests three times.

“We made sales worth 15,000 Kenyan shillings (US$150) during the last harvest. Each bale of grass goes for 350 shillings,” explained Josephine.

Water harvesting technologies

The group’s farm measures about six acres (2.5 hectares). Since the area is dry and receives very little rainfall, the women have dug rectangular pits known as zai pits, which trap the little water hitting the scorched ground whenever it rains. The soil within the pits and the raised embankments retain moisture for longer, providing enabling conditions for crop and fodder growth.

“Building the pits was hard work – and the men kept away,” said Kumontaare Lesoito, a member of the group. Being purely livestock keepers, the women had to learn how to dig using hoes. In return for working to establish the infrastructure of the communal farm, the group receives a monthly food ration.

“The food we get is very helpful. But the farm is giving us even more,” said Kumontaare. “We are happy that the hard work is paying off.”


WFP is not the only agency working on improving the lives and diversifying sources of food for the people of Oldonyiro.  The County Government of Isiolo and the USAID-supported Resilience for Economic Growth in Arid Lands programmes have provided equipment and training in fodder production and packaging, and built a modern livestock market.

The group is also trained on bee-keeping, soap making and making beads as alternative sources of income. It has 13 beehives all strategically placed near members’ homesteads.


In addition, the Oldonyiro group is also banking together. Members can borrow money from the group to grow their small businesses or to meet other family obligations.

“The men respect us more. Sometimes they come to us for financial help,” said Kumontaare. “They cannot sell our livestock without consulting us.”

As part of a multi-sectoral approach, cooking demonstrations are held to introduce nutritious foods and teach the group ways of cooking without destroying valuable nutrients.

“The Samburu community values milk and ugali (maize meal); but now we’ve learnt that it is healthy to eat green vegetables. They are good for the body,” said Kumontaare.


WFP’s asset creation projects are supported by Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, UN CERF, and USAID.

WFP is helping 650,000 food-insecure people living in the arid and semi-arid lands build resilience to drought. Together with partners, WFP is helping these families to build rural productive assets while transferring new production skills and approaches in order to enhance and diversify livelihoods. These activities are helping many better cope with the severe drought that is currently affecting Kenya.

02/10/2017 - 17:50
Food For Assets

It’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon as the smouldering heat of the day begins to ease, and a determined, active woman named Abung Koch is bustling back and forth in the community garden in the centre of Aweil. There is no time to waste, as this is the perfect time of day to get things done in the garden – first watering, then some weeding and finally the preparation of a new garden bed.

“I first planted cabbage over there,” Abung Koch says, pointing. “Before, I used to just put the seed in the ground, but now I’ve learned how to make a raised bed, which protects the seeds from the rain. I got a lot of knowledge from my facilitator, and when they gave me the tools and seeds, I planted tomato in the same way there. I now have three places, and this will be my fourth."

“Having the water close to this garden is good – before there was no water here and we had to rely on rain,” she adds.  “We eat most of the vegetables at home, but I also sell my tomatoes in the market.”

When asked about her future plans, she says, “My husband is old and cannot work, so in this way I can get some money and feed my six children. The people gave me some money to work here before, but now I am doing it myself. Before I did not know how to do this but after we got some help, I started. I would like to learn more – especially about pests, since some animals are attacking my things.”

“I hope we can continue this project so that we plant all this land,” she says, gesturing toward the open space behind her. “But first we need to build a fence, since the animals are coming in and eating our vegetables.”

Giving farmers opportunities

Koch’s story is not uncommon. Many people struggle to meet their food needs, but then, when given the opportunity, quickly learn the skills and see the benefits of having their own garden.

With funding from the United Kingdom, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are implementing a joint programme which has supported 77,820 farmers in the Bahr el-Gazal region of South Sudan by providing them financial compensation for their work in building and rehabilitating community-level productive assets, such as the well Koch worked on and the fence she is hoping to get. Offering people compensation for their work on common assets provides positive incentives and adds to the sustainability of the activities, as the community has a sense of ownership over the things they create.

This programme emphasizes the synergy of creating high-quality, relevant assets and the importance of the farmer field school approach, through which farmers who have received seed and tools participate in a series of hands-on training sessions that encourage the use of modern farming techniques. Farmers learn through demonstration plots and weekly supervision of their progress by technical experts, enhancing their opportunities to produce more food.

Building production capacity is critical

The Bahr el-Gazal area has been facing a long-term severe food crisis, as a structural deficit in production has resulted in many households relying on markets to meet their food needs. According to experts, the main drivers of this food crisis are mono-cropping of sorghum and poor agricultural practices, especially those linked to the ever increasing climate variability and extremes.

In addition, food prices have been rising astronomically, pushing food purchases out of reach for the poor and raising new vulnerabilities. This increase is due to the escalation of the national economic crisis, continued insecurity along the prominent trade routes, halted trade due to the border closure with Sudan, and fighting in certain areas of the state.

To help mitigate the impact of the food crisis in this area, it will be vital to increase farmers’ ability to cultivate a wider variety of crops, expand land size through communal farming and increase farmers’ knowledge of pests and diseases.

“We are working here together, and by helping each other we get stronger and better,” Koch concludes. “This year we are learning and want to keep learning so that we can produce more, because it is good for us and our families.”

A joint programme by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and their partners is supporting vulnerable community members receive financial compensation in exchange for work to construct infrastructure such as wells, and broaden their skills in community gardening to improve their livelihoods.

02/02/2017 - 11:11

Hargeisa, Somaliland - Twenty-year old Ruman Mohamed gently puts down her 11-month old daughter, Obah. She fills a small metal bowl with water from a plastic pitcher then dips her daughter’s hands inside, rubbing them clean.

“I learned to do that at the centre,” Ruman said, pointing to her daughter’s hands and referring to the MCHN centre she had visited in the morning, 10-minutes walk from her hut in Hargeisa City in north-western Somalia.  

From a plastic bag at her feet, Ruman pulls out a sachet with the letters ‘RUSF’–ready-to-use supplementary food. She kneads the sachet with one hand then tears off the corner with the other before handing it to her daughter, who puts it straight to her mouth and starts sucking out a smooth pale brown paste.

With big inquisitive eyes and full round cheeks, it isn’t obvious that Obah is moderately malnourished. Her daily ration of RUSF–a peanut-based nutrition supplement rich in essential fats and fortified with vitamins and minerals–is part of a 4-month nutrition treatment by WFP to address malnutrition in children under five. After the first month of treatment, the weighing scale at the MCH centre that morning showed that Obah had put on 200 grams – one sign that the treatment is working so far.

Malnutrition on the rise

In Somalia, some 363,000 children under five are malnourished, of whom 71,000 are severely malnourished and face a high risk of disease and death. With severe drought conditions prevailing in the country, it is estimated that 6.2 million Somalis, more than half the country’s population, are facing food insecurity. Of this number, close to 3 million are unable to meet their daily food requirements and are in dire need of life-saving assistance. The alarming food insecurity levels in the country mean that without immediate food and nutrition support, malnutrition rates for children and adults alike could rise.

A new arrival

An hour after Ruman and Obah leave the MCHN centre, 40-year old Saado Abokor Warsame sits quietly as a nutrition health worker checks her for malnutrition. Saado’s jilbab (veil) only shows her sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks. Her tall but frail body gives no suggestion that she is actually close to 9-months pregnant. The indicators show what the nutrition health worker had already suspected – Saado is malnourished.

Saado is a new arrival at the centre. To get to Hargeisa, her sister had to send money for her and her four children to make the 100-kilometre journey from her village. Her husband stayed behind to look after what was left of their worldly assets: four cows. The drought has already claimed 11 cows and 100 of their goats. With almost no means to produce or buy food, Saado said she and her children had no choice but to leave their home.

Unabated drought

Consecutive failed rainy seasons in Somalia have left pastureland in the north barren and caused a major drop in crop yields in the south. Officials say that most pastoralists have lost at least half their livestock to disease or starvation. This has prompted thousands of people in search of food and water to move east to Puntland or westward to towns, and even into neighboring Ethiopia. As more people arrive in Hargeisa and towns close by, already stretched resources risk being overwhelmed. 

This has meant that Saado’s situation is only marginally better than it was at home. Her sister and her family are already struggling everyday to find work and buy food. Meals consist mostly of rice, with no meat or vegetables. 

“We share food with my sister’s family,” said Saado, “But I know we are a burden.”

Healthy mother, healthy baby

Following Saado’s health assessment at the MCHN centre, she is enrolled in WFP’s nutrition programme for pregnant and nursing mothers. Until she gives birth and her baby reaches 6 months, she will receive counseling during pre and ante-natal care plus a monthly provision of supplementary fortified food to protect her from malnutrition and ensure that she is able to nurse her baby. 

Story by Mireille Ferrari, with contribution by Abdullahi Abdi (Hargeisa, Somaliland); Photos by WFP/Kabir Dhanji

WFP is assisting young mothers and children with nutrition programmes in over 930 Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) centres across Somalia. In many centres, WFP works together with UNICEF, who treat severe acute malnutrition, while WFP addresses moderate acute malnutrition. With the United Nations warning of a risk of famine, these centres and others like it is just one of the critical ways that the international community can urgently and effectively address the impacts of the severe drought on the health of women and small children.