World Food Program
Summary of Findings
Final:In 2002, USDA contributions to the ongoing WFP school feeding program made it possible to feed 33,360 additional students in Cameroon. As a result, the World Food Program’s school feeding operation benefited 125,360 students. The contribution also increased the number of girls receiving take-home rations. Provisions for the additional 3,571 rations helped WFP provide 9,536 girls with supplemental food. During the year, school enrollment increased by an average of 36% in some beneficiary institutions. Overall, girls’ enrollment increased by 28.3% during the period while dropout rates decreased significantly.
Midterm:WFP assistance to Cameroon in the education sector began in 1992. School feeding activities aim to increase school enrollment and attendance by girls. The activity is located in the country’s northern and eastern provinces. In these areas, the program targets schools where girls account for less than 40% of the student body and at least 40% of the students live more than 4 kilometers away. Preference is given to areas where the overall enrollment rate is below 30%. The project’s goal is to provide assistance to an estimated 49,000 pupils. Assistance includes a daily meal for all beneficiaries, both boys and girls, and a quarterly dry food ration to families who keep their daughters in school during the last two years of the primary education cycle (33% of beneficiaries). Effective targeting methods have led to a 7% increase, on average, in the female retention rate.
Final:The recession of the last 15 years has brought public investment in the education sector to a halt, particularly in the area of construction of school facilities, the recruitment of teachers and the purchase of educational materials. As a result, some teacher training centers were closed and school dropout rates have risen. According to a WFP and UNESCO evaluation conducted in 2001, the gross enrollment rate dropped from 96% in 1989 to 73% in 1995. Poverty is one of the major causes of missed educational opportunities and encourages the education gap between boys and girls in the Extreme North, North and Adamaoua provinces. In these areas, less than 15% of adults in the rural areas complete primary school. In urban centers, less than 10% of women complete their basic education while less than 5% do so in rural areas.
Parents in these regions see education as a costly expenditure with few benefits rather than a necessary investment or an opportunity. In Cameroon, there are many reasons for keeping a child out of school. Poverty, insufficient numbers of schools, the cost of school supplies and education fees, and the early integration of children, especially girls, into household income-generating activities prevent children in Cameroon from getting an education.
Midterm:Cameroon, a low-income, food deficit country, is in the middle of a serious economic recession characterized by a substantial drop in gross domestic product (GDP), a fall in household incomes and the introduction of draconian budget cuts established under the framework of a structural adjustment program. Consequences of these macro-economic phenomena include an increase in poverty and food insecurity levels, especially in the country’s northern and eastern regions. Basic social services, and education in particular, have been hard-hit by tight financial restrictions and are no longer able to respond to the demands. As a result, an alarmingly large number of children, many of them girls, are no longer sent to school.
Demographic pressures like population growth, high population density, under-utilization of inputs, inadequate extension, disorganized markets and post-harvest losses have led to a fall in food crop production and the amount of food available per capita. From 1982-1996, daily caloric intake fell from 2,300 calories to 1,981.
Faced with the difficulties of making ends meet and the direct and indirect costs of their children’s education, many families have chosen to withdraw their children from school. Parents cannot afford to pay school fees and the official and unofficial contributions required to keep the schools running. In addition, they often need the labor of their children, especially girls, to work in the fields or in the home. Without a meal or snack during the school day, children who attend school have little energy and are unable to concentrate on their lessons.
Final:In 2002, the WFP school feeding program in Cameroon received US food donations totaling 390 metric tons of cereals.
Midterm:The selection of the food basket takes into account the beneficiaries’ food preferences and includes cereals, vitamin A-enriched vegetable oil, leguminous vegetables, and iodized salt to remedy nutritional deficits common in the targeted regions.
The ration’s nutritional value (714 kilocalories, 18 grams of protein, and 21 grams of fat) represents 30 to 35% of the energy intake recommended for school children (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization norms). The ration is completed by fresh condiments and vegetables (onions, vegetables, niébé, etc.) supplied by local communities through school management committees or parents’ associations. The meal is served between 10 a.m. and noon.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Education is responsible for the project strategy and implementation. Other responsibilities include setting up the school canteens; training local communities, teachers and canteen managers; and organizing project monitoring and evaluation activities. It is the responsibility of the head teacher and the school management committee to collect and transport commodities from local distribution centers to the schools.
Under this activity, dry rations intended for girl’s families are distributed by parents’ associations. This network redistributes food to the girl’s mothers within a maximum period of two weeks and keeps an account of all quantities received and distributed. Parent associations and school feeding management committees work together to monitor the program and to complete required periodic reports.
The 1,060 metric tons of U.S.-donated corn arrived in September 2001.
Final:Through the school feeding program, all participating boys and girls received a daily meal consisting of 150 grams of cereals, 15 grams of oil, 20 grams of pulses and 5 grams of salt.
In addition, take-home rations were distributed to girls. The dry ration serves as an income transfer for parents to compensate them for the girl’s absence from household income-generating activities. During the last three years of primary school, the supplementary food provision encourages families to keep their daughters in school through the end of the primary school cycle.
In Cameroon, the school day begins at 8:00 in the morning and ends at 1:00 in the afternoon. Students eat lunch in the school canteen under their teacher’s supervision. Parent associations help oversee the management of these kitchens and distribute the take-home rations to participating girls at the end of each school term.
Due to a lack of clean drinking water in targeted schools, WFP was unable to provide students with a glass of reconstituted milk to further curb short-term hunger. Nevertheless, in anticipation of improved sanitary conditions under a new UNICEF partnership involving the construction of potable school water systems in 2003, WFP has requested powdered milk supplies from the United States. The milk will be served during the mid-morning break and will help alleviate short-term hunger. Mid-morning snacks help improve student’s ability to concentrate, allowing them to excel in their studies and improve their academic performance.
Midterm:WFP assistance to Cameroon in the education sector began in 1992. The present expansion aims to increase enrollment and attendance in schools among girls and to retarget the project on the country’s northern and eastern provinces. Eligible for WFP assistance are schools where girls account for less than 40% of students and where at least 40% of students live more than 4 kilometers away. Preference is given to areas where the overall enrollment rate is below 30%.
The immediate objectives of the project are as follows:
Increase the number of children going to primary schools in poor areas afflicted by food insecurity;
Augment pupils’ capacity to learn by providing them with a nutritionally balanced meal; and
Raise enrollment and attendance rates among girls ages 6 to 14 in the targeted provinces.
The Government of Cameroon, WFP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other organizations also undertake awareness-raising campaigns regularly to promote girls’ education and to ensure that local groups are committed to basic education and joint management activities. UNICEF has a complementary program to promote girls’ education in the poverty-afflicted northern provinces.
Final:WFP’s recent vulnerability assessment made it possible to classify Cameroon’s provinces according to food security, education, health and nutrition levels. It also helped demonstrate how natural factors, agricultural production levels, low educational attainment, inadequate facilities and poverty level incomes are responsible for vulnerability and food insecurity in the North.
Moreover, an analysis of the education situation revealed significant disparities among regions, rural and urban areas, and between genders. Less than 15% of adults living in the rural areas of the three northern provinces (Adamaoua, North and Extreme North) completed their primary school education. The situation for women is even worse – with only 5% of the female population having access to basic education. The gross enrollment rate is 55% in this area, while it varies between 65 and 100% in the rest of the country. Approximately 50% more boys than girls receive an education in the regions of the North and Extreme North while 30% more boys than girls receive an education in Adamaoua province. The main cause of this disparity is poverty. Families cite the cost of education as the main reason children do not attend school in these areas. Some social and cultural factors also limit the education of girls.
In this context, the impact of the school feeding program was considerable. Through parents associations, WFP emphasized active parental participation and the gradual assumption of program management responsibilities. Special attention was given to women and activities that helped them achieve decision-making roles within these committees.
The food commodities supplied by WFP were a successful incentive for parents who had been reluctant to send girls to school. In addition, participation in the parent committees helped elevate the general perception of the value of education within the community.
Women’s participation in the management of school canteens and their contribution to meal preparation became opportunities for personal development as well.
Student enrollment and attendance rates increased substantially. During the year, enrollments increased by an average of 36% in some beneficiary institutions. Over the same period, girls enrollment increased by an average of 28.3%. In the coming years, WFP hopes to see the enrollment rate for girls in these regions increase to 50% or more. Specific support for keeping girls in school during the last three grades of primary school also helped lower the dropout rate and discouraged parents from taking their daughters out of school for early employment or marriage. The number of girls receiving take-home rations has increased from 7,429 to an average of 9,536 a year.
The program also benefited from the Government’s 2001 decision to bolster the primary school workforce. The Government recruited a total of 3,000 teachers (1,700 of whom were previously substitute teachers) and reopened 22 teacher-training centers that had previously been closed due to the recession. The education sector underwent a marked improvement, with the teacher/student ratio shifting from1/150 to 1/60 in the schools receiving WFP assistance.
In October 2002, WFP approved a new Country Program that will continue supporting school feeding activities in Cameroon. The project will continue to focus on increasing student enrollment and attendance levels at schools in the three poorest northern provinces in the country. The activity will target the provinces in the North where access to education poses an economic problem for underprivileged households as reflected in the enrollment rates, which are lower than 30%. Moreover, the education gap between boys and girls varies between 30 and 50%, as compared to 10% in the country’s other regions. The goal will be to promote an overall rebalancing of education to ensure opportunities for the poorest and most underserved populations, including girls.
Midterm: The project’s expected outputs are to provide assistance to an average of 49,000 pupils, and consist of the following:
A daily meal for all pupils, both boys and girls, in the schools covered (100% of beneficiaries); and
A quarterly dry ration to families keeping their daughters at school during the last two years of primary schooling (33% of beneficiaries).
The number of school girls receiving dry rations will increase from 15,000 in the project’s first year to 16,000 in the second and 16,500 in the third and fourth years.
By targeting age groups between 6 and 14, WFP has focused on a population that traditionally stops attending school or drops out of school altogether. The girls targeted are remaining in school and thereby delaying marriage, pregnancy, and cyclical poverty.
Enrollment levels of girls targeted in the Cameroon school feeding program have increased over the last three years by 16% on average. Enrollment of girls increased nearly 50% during the first years of the program. Since the school feeding program began, the Government of Cameroon has also started committing additional funds to education. Results so far include increases in the number of teachers and an improved curriculum.
GFE In Action
Hélène attends public school in Djoumassi, a village located 8 km from Garoua, the capital city of the North Province of Cameroon. In September 1998, Hélène’s school was selected to participate in WFP’s School Feeding Program.
Hélène’s family is very poor, as are most of the people in Djoumassi. Although her father is a farmer, he does not own any land. At the beginning of the rainy season, he rents 2,500 square meters of land for 5,000 Cameroonian francs. In good years, this parcel yields an average of 500 kgs of sorghum and maize, but it is not enough to meet his family’s basic needs.
To make ends meet, Hélène’s father sells firewood that the family gathers, illegally, from the nearest mountaintop.
Hélène and her family live in two little huts made of mud and covered with straw roofs. In these huts, there is neither electricity nor running water. During the six months that follow the harvest, Hélène and her family eat two meals a day. For the second half of the year, the family survives on one meal a day.
Five of the children go to schools without furniture while one is still too young to enroll. After the family’s two mothers left home following a divorce, Hélène was left to care for the house and five children. In this part of the country, children always remain with the father. As Héléne was the oldest daughter, the responsibility for managing the household fell to her.
"This situation was very hard to manage," she says, "I returned from school to cook for my brothers and sisters. Thanks to WFP, we now have a meal at school which helps us cope."
Hélène’s father does not make enough money to pay the school fees for all of his children. He does, however, make extra efforts to ensure that Héléne can attend because she receives a take-home ration of 50 kg of maize at the end of the each quarter. Five or 10 kgs of this food is sold to purchase the few extra items like dry fish, soap, sugar, and salt that are needed at home while the rest is consumed by the family.
Take-home rations are precious for poor rural households in the northern regions of Cameroon. A girl receiving a dry ration is respected by her entire village. For her parents, the rations bring additional consideration and honour as well.
Take-home rations are effective incentives for girls to attend school. In regions where girls do not usually go to school because they marry at an early age, WFP food aid has helped make it possible for more girls to enroll in school and attend classes on a regular basis.