Overall WFP plays a lead role on issues related to food security and hunger nationwide. It spearheads activities aiming to identifyi those who are most food insecure and vulnerable and to build resilience against future vulnerabilities.
Current activities include: working with the government and other development partners in responding to its development national priorities and the negative impact of the 2008 and current food, fuel and financial crisis through the scaling up of the school feeding programme, the only countrywide safety net and the development of a food security monitoring system aimed at understanding better food insecurity issues in order to inform the best responses to address it and build resilience of the most food insecure and vulnerable populations. The Food for Education project ‘Support to Basic Education in Rural and Urban Vulnerable Regions (Development Project, Dev. 105480) August 2007- July 2012, provides a daily nutritious meal to vulnerable children in selected urban and rural primary schools, early childhood development centers and madrassas located in food-insecure areas of the country.In addition to the nutritional benefits resulting from the meals, the aim is to contribute to increasing both enrolment and completion rates, and maintain attendance and reduce dropout rates in targeted schools.
Under the Food for Education project, which is being implemented through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, food assistance is provided for up to 177,215 children in 166 Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDCs), 353 Primary Schools and 27 government recognized Madrassas. The WFP development programme, by providing meals for these children, supports approximately 70,000 families (80 percent of rural households). However, from January 2011 – April 2011, 67 percent of the beneficiaries were left without food due to prolonged resource shortfalls. Available resources are only enough to cover the food distribution based on 70% of their needs for one school term. The government widely recognizes the significance of the Food for Education project in boosting enrolment, attendance and retention rates in rural schools. It is also being seen as a vital national wide safety-net intervention for the rural and urban vulnerable population, during these periods of heightened food insecurity.
The project also aims to improve the learning environment in schools and to strengthen the government’s capacities to effectively manage and sustain a school feeding program in the future. WFP also helps in the improvement of essential school infrastructure, in health and nutrition education, the establishment and management of school gardens with sustained involvement of the community, through the strengthening of Food Management Committees (FMCs).
In 2010, WFP commenced the implementation of a pilot project on school gardens, through which assistance was provided for 20 schools from the various regions of the Gambia, to establish and manage their gardens and in the process:
• Increase the relevance and quality of education for children, through active learning and the introduction of practical skills in to the curriculum;
• Provide school children with hands-on experience in food production and natural resource management, and new skills and techniques that they can apply to their family farms or household gardens;
Improve student nutrition by supplementing school feeding programmes with fresh nutritious foods rich in micronutrients, and increase children's knowledge of nutrition to the benefit of the whole familyFollowing the conclusion of an impact evaluation of the development project (Dev 105480), actions are underway commence the formulation of the next school feeding project planned to start in August 2012. The recommendations of the impact evaluation include the development of a national school feeding policy that will encapsulate strategies to enable better targeting and ensure that all selected children benefit from the school meals. Emphasis will also be put on developing the capacities of the Government counterparts and key other stakeholders with a view to improving project coordination and management. Strengthened strategic partnerships are also expected to help cover better nutritional aspects through the conduction of surveys to determine children’s nutritional status and regular anthropometric data collection and analysis. The preparatory work (for which necessary funds have been secured through existing project funds and a grant) will include engaging the Government in further integration of the school feeding in national priorities and prepare the transition to a fully–owned, more sustainable programme Emergency response, preparedness and disaster risk reduction.
As chair of the UN Disaster Management Group, WFP has been very active in assisting national institutions in the field of disaster risk reduction and management. This includes supporting the Government in its efforts to prevent and mitigate the effects of natural disasters such as the heavy floods that have affected the country the last few years. WFP is playing an important role in supporting the development of an enabling policy environment, in developing the capacity of various national institutions at central and decentralized levels in contingency planning, emergency preparedness, needs assessment, immediate relief assistance and lasting responses in key areas such as food assistance and logistics response at large
Heavy rainfall from mid July to October 2010 had resulted in widespread flooding with damage to infrastructure and livelihoods across The Gambia, affecting over 35,000 people throughout the Gambia. Most heavily hit areas were Western Region, Kanifing Municipality and Greater Banjul areas, but loss of lives and livelihoods were reported in other parts of the country as well.
From November 2010 – February 2011, WFP, in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and other partners, implemented a three-month Immediate Response Emergency Operations, aimed at providing support to over 13,000 displaced people and farmers who experienced crop damage due to the 2010 heavy rains and floods.
This was in response to the Government of the Gambia’s declaration of a state of National Emergency on September 7, 2010, and the subsequent launching of an appeal - both in country and abroad for additional relief and rehabilitation assistance.
The objectives of IR EMOP were to: (a) Provide food rations to displaced persons for three months to cover their immediate needs while they resume their livelihoods (b) Provide two-month rations of rice to affected swamp rice farmers who lost early crops, to meet their immediate food consumption needs until the next crop harvest.
WFP also provided support to the Government during the preparation of a multi-hazard contingency plan, which sets the way for future activities in emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction.
Strengthening Food Security Analysis
With an aim toward reactivating the Food Security Working Group, WFP liaises with the Government and development partners in order to address food security issues and reinforce its leading role on issues such as early warning systems, disaster mitigation, emergency preparedness and food security monitoring systems (FSMS).
WFP is currently implementing a Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) strategy that aims to enhance sectoral coordination, build institutional capacities and support efforts to set up a comprehensive FSMS to incorporate household-level food security information. This VAM strategy is essential, as proper identification of the most vulnerable populations helps WFP tailor its assistance to those who need it most.
In January 2011, WFP conducted the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA), the first nationwide survey of its kind in The Gambia, on the basis of a participatory and consultative approach involving Government, UN, NGOs and community representatives. The CFSVA identifies the most vulnerable populations and illuminates the underlying and immediate causes of food insecurity. The results will serve as a baseline for the FSMS to follow up the evolution of food security and vulnerability at household and community levels amongst the urban and rural poor in the future. Plans are also underway to set up a market information system that tracks price volatility of staple food commodities, exchange rate fluctuations and cross-border trade flows that influence household's access to food.