Improved nutrition and agriculture go hand in hand through initiative in Guinea
Story | 22 September 2021
Although rich in natural resources, Guinea faces major socio-economic challenges. The poverty rate is alarming, and 21.8 percent of households are food-insecure. Malnutrition remains high: 6.1 percent of children under 5 are affected by global acute malnutrition, 24.4 percent are stunted, and 12 percent are underweight.
Rural populations are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Among those affected by severe food insecurity, 71.1 percent practice subsistence farming. Smallholder farmers comprise the majority of the country’s poor, showing a correlation between poverty and food insecurity. Besides, they have poor access to seeds and fertilizers, production and processing equipment, storage facilities, basic infrastructure and affordable financial services. Although women play a crucial role in agriculture, particularly in food production, they have difficulties in accessing land and productive resources, education, formal employment and income-generating activities. Their work is often unpaid and undervalued. Women make up 60 percent of people suffering from chronic hunger, and the majority of rural people living in poverty.
Guinea is also prone to recurring natural disasters such as flooding and bush fires, affecting most food-insecure people.
Unemployment is high, particularly among youth and women, and literacy rates are low, with only 32 percent of the adult population able to read and write. School attendance is also low- 22 percent of primary school-aged children are out of school. Moreover, Guinea faces major socio-political challenges and the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections increases the risk of ethnic and political violence paralysing economic activities in the country.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been present in Guinea since 1964 providing nutritious and immediate food assistance to affected populations during and in the aftermath of crises. WFP works in partnership with the Government to improve children’s access to education, enhance nutrition among the population, build sustainable food systems and communities’ resilience to shocks whilst improving their access to profitable and stable agricultural markets. WFP activities also include strengthening the Government’s technical capacities to develop sustainable programmes sensitive to addressing gender inequalities and root causes of malnutrition.
To improve attendance and retention rates and encourage parents to send children—especially girls—to school, WFP provides nutritious school meals to 2,119 and 150,000 children in 37 pre-primary and 1,216 primary schools respectively. 8,000 girls in sixth grade (the last year of primary) receive take-home rations. The programme integrates the home-grown school feeding model, promoting local production for nutritious school meals.
During crises, WFP provides timely and adequate food assistance to meet the immediate food needs of those affected. In August 2019, following flooding in the prefecture of forest region Guéckédou, which caused great difficulty for already vulnerable families, devastating crops and livestock, WFP provided 58.5 metric tons of rice, worth US$21,486, to 3,000 affected people.
WFP provides life-saving nutritious food to vulnerable people, including children aged under 5, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people living with HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) and their household members. Improved food security and nutrition prevents and reduces maternal malnutrition, mortality risk, low birth weight rates and malnutrition in children under 5. It also contributes to improving the health status of HIV and TB clients under treatment. WFP also supports the Government’s nutrition-sensitive programmes and activities.
WFP creates productive assets and provides financial and technical support to smallholder farmers and vulnerable communities through its integrated Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) and Smallholder Agricultural Market Support (SAMS) programmes, with the aim to improve smallholders’ agricultural productivity and revenues, build their resilience to shocks including climate change, and increase their access to profitable and stable agricultural markets by linking them to the school feeding programmes. WFP works closely with the Government, UN sister agencies and national NGOs to build sustainable food systems and further strengthen national resilience capacities.
In order to strengthen Government capacities in the design and implementation of sustainable programmes and ensure national ownership before an eventual handover, WFP provides institutional technical and financial support through formal partnership with various Ministries including the Ministry of Education, Health, Agriculture, Commerce, Decentralisation and Cooperation.
In partnership with a private telecoms provider, WFP provides cash transfers to support 200 pre-primary and primary schools, enabling school management committees to directly purchase food from local smallholder farmers and rice parboilers’ unions. More recently, WFP introduced cash transfers to support beneficiaries under Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) activities.