The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes the Government of Japan’s contribution of JPY 200,000,000 (equivalent to E25 Million) in funding from the Government of Japan to ensure the provision of nutritious meals to over 24,000 (11,571 girls and 12,659 boys) school children across Eswatini.
A press briefing and signing ceremony were held to mark the contribution. The ceremony was officiated by the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Honorable Dr. Tambo Gina, in the presence of the Ambassador of Japan, H.E. Mr. Norio Maruyama, and WFP Eswatini Head of Office, Deepak Shah.
In 2021, during the closure of schools as a result of COVID-19 regulations, most children were deprived of their only meal of the day. The scourge of COVID-19 has aggravated food insecurity through limited economic opportunity and high commodity prices, exacerbating vulnerability, especially among women and children.
The amount of E 25,000,000 (the equivalent of US$ 1,641,497) will be allocated for the Homegrown School-Feeding (HGSF) program, which seeks to provide nutritious and diverse meals to school children. The food basket consists of pap/rice, beans, spinach, cabbage, onion, lettuce, vegetable oil, and eggs – a recent addition. Apart from the rice and vegetable oil, the food is sourced from over 600 local smallholder farmers belonging to 17 registered cooperatives.
In addition to guaranteeing a healthy cooked lunch to school children – for many, their only meal of the day – the funding will ensure smallholders access to guaranteed markets for their produce, thereby facilitating sustainable food production. Participating farmers will also be trained in “conservation” agriculture techniques, helping them boost yields and cut costs.
“We are grateful to Japan for this timely contribution, one that will allow us to pursue our life-saving and life-enhancing work here”, said Mr. Shah. “Covid-19 triggered large-scale job losses, slashed family earnings and opportunities, and severely aggravated already severe food insecurity, especially among the poorest and the youngest”.
Sixteen percent of Eswatini’s 1.2 million people are acutely food insecure, and a similar proportion of its children are physically stunted by chronic malnutrition, according to the most recent assessments.
H.E. Norio Maruyama – Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Eswatini said “During this unprecedented time, we would like to contribute again to improving the livelihood of vulnerable people in Eswatini. This assistance illustrates a long-standing friendship between our two peoples.”
The Government of Japan has been funding food assistance for developing countries since 1968 and is a long-standing partner of WFP in Eswatini.