Message from the Executive Director of CAFOR, Lawalley Cole, for February 2019

Africa is celebrating for the fourth time the Africa Day of School Feeding on March 1, 2019. This year the Government of Cote D’Ivoire is hosting the main event in Abidjan. However, celebrations continue in the other member states of the African Union. This year’s festivities in Abidjan will also mark the launch of the School Feeding Secretariat and its activities. The African Union Commission will launch the Secretariat in collaboration with the Government of Cote D’Ivoire and other partners. The celebrations in Abidjan are expected to be colourful with H.E. President Alassane Ouattara gracing the occasion. The Abidjan meeting focuses on the importance of investing in school feeding programmes which can bring economic returns for a long term and sustainable development, especially reflecting on agriculture, nutrition, education and community resilience.

We recall that it was during the 26th Ordinary Summit of African Heads of State and Government held in January 2016 (Assembly/AU/Dec. 589 (XXVI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that a decision in support of School Feeding was passed, introducing March 1 as the Africa Day of School Feeding. Also as part of its Agenda 2063, the African Union has developed and adopted the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to support school feeding programmes as a common continental priority. This combination is part of a developing multi-sectoral approach, led by the AU’s Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology. Other African Union departments that include the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, and AU member states and key stakeholders are also partners in the celebration of the Africa School Feeding Day.  These include the World Food Programme, the Centre of Excellence in Brazil, the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (UNESCO-IICBA) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

The African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government /AU/Dec.707(XXXI) declared the year 2019 theme to be “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”. In this respect, the 2019 African Day of School Feeding will consider that in Africa millions of civilians are affected by armed conflict every day. People in cities, towns, villages and other isolated areas throughout the continent struggle to find food, water and safe shelter, while fighting drives millions from their homes. Children are recruited and deployed to fight, and their schools destroyed.

Accordingly, to contribute to this AU thematic discussion, the Fourth Africa Day of School Feeding will introduce Home Grown School Feeding as a durable solution to advance in the Sustainable Development Goals and the objectives of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa and build resilience.  Consequently, aligning with the theme of the year, the subject of the Fourth African Day of School Feeding is INVESTING IN HOMEGROWN SCHOOL FEEDING FOR ACHIEVING ZERO HUNGER, SUSTAINING INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AND IMPROVING RESILIENCE IN AFRICA.

Since the Declaration was approved, the African Union has already celebrated three African School Feeding Days in Niger, Congo-Brazzaville and Zimbabwe, and has validated a continental study with recommendations to improve School Feeding in Africa. (https://au.int/sites/default/files/documents/34964-doc-sustainable_school_feeding_1.pdf).  The African Union has since established a School Feeding Cluster under the Continental Education Strategy for Africa plan. The School Feeding Cluster instruments were approved in 2018 with the Cluster now ready to implement its road map for the next three years.

School Feeding programmes have been a vital tool in realising the efforts needed to get every girl and boy to school by reducing poverty-related disparities as demanded by the Agenda 2063 and CESA 16-25. School Feeding Programmes have a significant impact on school access, retention and attendance, and on reducing drop-out rates among school-age children. In-school meals provided directly to hungry children reduce short-term hunger and can serve as a vehicle for meeting their nutritional requirements. Moreover, it also improves students’ learning, cognitive functions, in-class behaviour, academic performance and ability to concentrate. School Feeding Programmes also contribute to children’s psychological well-being by addressing factors that can cause childhood depression, being hungry and out of school.

Additionally, School Feeding programmes improve household food security for marginalised, food-insecure families by increasing the food baskets of families when targeted for food-deficit areas. It provides an essential means to transfer revenues to beneficiary families and a social safety net for poor households. These programmes have the potential to benefit entire communities through stimulating local markets, enabling households to invest in productive assets and impact the broader economy through its potential to facilitate agricultural transformation through linkages with smallholder farmers.

Furthermore, investments in human capital in general and School Feeding, in particular, are believed to anchor the two primary Global Development Goals – SDG2 and SDG4 – through improving the education, health and nutrition status of school going children. It also contributes significantly to catalysing the process of reaping the youth demographic dividend, thereby expediting an unprecedented economic growth on the continent.

CAFOR wishes all Africans happy celebrations and with our very best wishes!

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