School Feeding Begins in one Niapele Partner Community!
On March 8, 2012, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Mawah community in Fuamah district. Mawah is one of Niapele's pilot sites for the School Nutrition Initiative (SNI) that began in June 2011. The community has worked incredibly hard at the onset of this initiative to make it successful. Click here to read about their efforts in greater detail.
Local ownership is at the heart of the SNI. As such, responsibility for strategy and implementation rests with the school's Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and the SNI Work Committee, which was selected last summer from within the community and the PTA to implement the program.
In Mawah, the Work Committee members have harvested 17 bags of rice for their first SNI harvest. When I visited the community, the school was officially beginning the feeding program, using the rice grown by the community, leafy greens provided by the PTA, and supported by a small cash fund provided by Niapele (used to purchase additional kitchen necessities: oil, maggi cubes, matches, coal, soap, etc)
It was really exciting and inspiring to witness the feeding program's first day in Mawah. I was accompanied by the local clan chief and the district development chairlady, who both wholeheartedly support the SNI's objectives. Both mentioned that they would be talking to their community members to ensure that more Work Committee members can be recruited, and the momentum sustained. Mawah built its own country kitchen for the SNI, without Niapele's assistance. However, they are lacking a proper storage facility for their food crops, as well as a cafeteria. The kitchen could also use some benches/work stations, which we hope will be built soon, thanks to Niapele's support but also thanks to income generated by the sale of SNI cash crops currently being grown by the Work Committee.
Mawah is a traditional village in an isolated community, yet it has a vibrant culture and a big spirit. The community boasts both a church and a mosque, and the local blacksmith produces is an expert tool producer, using techniques that have been around for hundreds of years.
I visited Mawah twice during my time in Fuamah county, and had time to sit down and chat with the community about the constraints they face and listen to their thoughts about the benefits and challenges of the SNI for their community. I felt that, for the most part, the community members I interacted with were supportive of the SNI's objectives - self-sustainability, food security, independence, sound and transparent management.
Many more meetings and workshops will be held in Mawah by Niapele staff, to continue sensitizing the community to the goals of the SNI, as well as to provide specific training and knowledge sharing in key areas. The 136 children currently attending school in Mawah will no longer face the school day with hunger in their belly. For this, they have their own parents and community to thank. It's a beautiful thing.
This post was written by Penelope Chester, Founder and Director of The Niapele Project.