Globally, almost 1 billion people do not have enough food (World Food Programme data). On 16th October 2013, organisations around the world will celebrate World Food Day to raise awareness and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. This year's theme is "Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition".
Hunger is a daily reality for many of the children ChildHope supports. In The Gambia, we are helping to combat malnutrition as part of a project with our partners the Child Protection Alliance and the Institute for Social Reformation and Action.
Marabouts, however, struggle to provide for the children in their care.Often dependent on subsistence farming themselves, the situation worsens in the dry season when food is scarce. Unscrupulous middle men raise the price of staple foods to extortionate levels up to three times the market value making many essential food items unaffordable. As a consequence, the children in the majalis have to spend significant time labouring in fields, which reduces the time spent in education or play.
Addressing food shortages in MajalisChildHope is working with our partners to develop innovative methods to address food shortages. Our project is building or restoring nine 'cereal banks' that store grain - this enables the marabouts to buy food when prices and store them to cover the dry season when food is scarce. We have seeds, tools and agricultural training so that vegetable gardens can be developed to improve nutrition. The gardens are producing tomatoes, groundnuts, aubergine and cucumber. The project has also constructed a water well to help irrigate plots to improve production.
70% of the crops produced by the gardens will be consumed by children in the majalis. The remaining 30% will be sold to increase income to cover other basic needs, and the project has helped to construct grocery stalls to enable the surplus to be sold.
By improving agricultural production, the project not only ensures a sustainable income source for the majalis but it also greatly improving the children's diet. ChildHope knows that good nutrition is essential in enabling children to be healthy and concentrate on learning, ensuring long-term benefits that last beyond the project.