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.
At each of the schools, the communities manifested their appreciation of the support of the USDA and the US people through special traditional and cultural gifts, which they presented to members of the delegation including accompanying titles such as Capita(Meaning), for Dr. Smith, and Reine Mere ( queen mother for CEO of Nascent) Paul, and Bruce.
The working sessions with the Mayors and the technical staff of key government agencies highlighted the strategies that the municipalities individually and collectively were putting in place to incorporate the school meals program as an integral part of the basic education system. The mayors expressed their appreciation to Nascent for engaging them in the program and all the efforts that the organization is investing to make every member of the community to participate in the program. The practical approaches articulated during these meetings resonated with the USDA ideas of the HGSMP. Their effort to forge a community of practice that provides opportunity for sharing and learning emerged as an indigenous initiative that has the potential to ensure the success and sustainability of the program. Dr. Smith lauded the efforts of the Nascent teams and commitment of the stakeholders and the communities and expressed their great satisfaction with the extraordinary achievements of the program. Mr. Alberghine, what extremely impressed with the fact that schools were all implementing aspects of the HGSM program and laying a foundation for local procurement.
Discussions with the technical staff of the Ministry of Agriculture centered around technical support for increased productivity and post-harvest management techniques which can extend shelf life for locally produced foods for the school meals Program.
At the national level, the USDA Guest, had an inspiring meeting with the Secretary of State for External Relations, the Focal Point of the McGovern-Dole Program for the Government of Cameroon. on Behalf of the Minister and the Government Mr. Chimmoun expressed the appreciation of the Cameroon people to the USDA and the American people for the support they have provided to Cameroon through the multiple rounds of the McGovern-Dole Program. Mr. Chimmoun informed that guests that the President was updated on a regular basis on the developments of the program and was aware that he was receiving the USDA delegation that day. He promised that the taskforce working on the school meals Policy were due to submit their draft to his office by the end of May 2022 to onward transmission to the Prime Minister’s office. He appealed to the Guests to assist Cameroon to elevate the communication and information on the program to the US hierarchy.
The Minister of Basic Education accompanied by Secretary of State thanked USDA delegation for the visit and for the support. He reported that his agencies and other government agencies are working hard to finalize on the school Meals policy.
The field coordinator from the North West region brough greetings and appreciation from the 59 functioning school communities and the mobile reading centers. Share pictures of school feeding activities, the gardens and capacity building activities for various stakeholder groups.
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