On May 1, 2022, a three-man delegation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) traveled to Cameroon to monitor the $27million five-year McGovern-Dole international food for Education and Child Nutrition program, benefiting over 98,000 children in 240 schools in the Adamaoua, East, North and north West regions of the country.
Led by Dr. Gerald Smith, the USDA Regional Attache for Cameroon, Bening and Nigeria, Dr. Smith was accompanied by Mr. Bruce Boyea, the Senior International Program Specialist overseeing the implementation of the Cameroon McGovern-Dole program and Mr. Paul Alberghine, a seasoned Senior International Program Specialist at U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The two-week field visit, which targeted four schools in the East and Adamaoua Regions was punctuated by courtesy calls with high-level government officials including the regional Governors the East and Adamaoua, the regional delegates of Basic Education and working sessions with the Mayors of all the participating municipalities and technical staff of the key government agencies including, Basic Education, Health, Agriculture, Water and Sanitation as well as Gender and Social Services.
The school visit provided an opportunity for the Guests to interact with the Students, Teachers, the school Administrators, the Parent Teachers Association, the Cooks, the Traditional Leaders, and the crosse-section of the communities, who proudly show cased their engagement and active participation in the program. The PTA president at Paki, admonished Nascent for reinforcing the need for parents to not only enroll children in school but support them to complete the program. A 14-year-old female student, reported that because of the McGovern-Dole program, she has abandoned the farms and made the school library her second home.
Each program school showcased not only the main staple of the program but the innovative components and the contributions, which the communities have made to ensure the sustainability of the program. The outstanding school infrastructure, including model school building such as in Gbakombo, the libraries with the locally produced books, the kitchens with their energy-saving stoves and storerooms, the latrines and above all the multipurpose solar-powered boreholes with sprinklers irrigating the school gardens.
Talking about the school meals, the guests were happily surprised at their first stop at the Ecole Publique de Paki (the Paki Primary school) where they learnt that as their first step towards the Home-Grown School Meals Program, the school community was already serving locally grown food for two-days of the week to complement the donated USDA commodities. The Guests sampled and loved the local dish of Cassava and Quem (cassava leaf prepared with palm oil) accompanied by a juicy mango fruit. At Gbakombo, the students had corn meal with Okra and a banana. The PTA were all excited to take the guests not only to their flourishing school gardens, but the school community farms that displayed their climate agricultural practices, including interrupting, tree planting and irrigation. The Cooks, some with babies on the backs joyfully sang and danced for the guests expressing their appreciation for the opportunity to serve their own children.
At the Ecole Catholic Sainte Angel in Ngaoundere, the Guest were treated to skits, dance and songs which echoed their new knowledge and skills acquired through the McGovern-Dole program as well as their abilities to read and write. The Program nutritionist at the Ecole Publique de Neminaka took the guests through their techniques of blending and fortifying millet, corn, and soy into a nutritious health commodity for children under-five.