Congo Brazzaville: The second edition of the African Day of School Meals was officially launched and celebrated on Wednesday 1 March 2017, under the patronage of the Congolese government, to the theme: “Home Grown School Feeding: Investment in Youth and Children for Harnessing the Demographic Dividend”.
The historic day was celebrated by the African Union Commission, together with the AU Member States and development partners. A colorful ceremony, which was complemented by a series of official events in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, was attended by senior government officials and ministers from African governments including Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Zimbabwe, Senegal, along with development partners, members of the diplomatic corps and other guests.
The Africa Day for School Feeding was instituted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government during the 26th African Union Summit in January 2016 (Assembly/AU/Dec. 589 (XXVI), in recognition of the immense value of home grown school feeding, in enhancing retention and improving the performance of children in school, and in boosting income generation and entrepreneurship in local communities.
“The Government of Congo is committed to investing in school feeding in the interests of our children and for the future of our country,” said minister Claude Alphonse Silou, representing the Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo.
"All of us have a role to play in school feeding,” said Dr. Martial de Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the African Union, speaking on behalf of the President of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “Let us support our governments and the African Union in achieving the objectives underlying the creation of this program and of course our common vision of The Africa we want,” he said.
“Home grown school meals programmes bring together nutrition and learning and connect schools with parents, smallholder farmers and local markets, creating a powerful force. By encouraging these transformational programmes across the continent, the African Union is bringing us one step closer to our shared goal of a world with Zero Hunger,” said Daniel Balaban, Director of the WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger, based in Brazil.
In his remarks, WFP Country Director in Republic of Congo, David Bulman, underscored the importance of school meals programmes, particularly for vulnerable children, and cited recent research on the cost-benefit of school meals programmes. “Every dollar invested in school meals in Congo generates a return on investment of more than nine dollars” he said.
In the words of the African Union President: “I dare to hope that the recommendations of the assembly in favour of the promotion of school feeding programmes in the framework of CESA 16-25 will not remain a mere document sitting in the drawers of the ministries but will mark the beginning of a process which will offer many opportunities to reinforce the convergence of resources, skills and resources."