As a chain of islands located off the western coast of Africa, Cape Verde is geographically isolated from the rest of its home continent by miles and miles of ocean. Although Cape Verde boasts a stable political climate and has among the highest per capita incomes of West African countries, the islands continue to struggle with famine. According to Lonely Planet, a history of isolation, a dearth of arable land and recurring droughts have established an on-going and persistent battle against hunger.
In the 20th century alone, the island’s cyclical droughts caused the deaths of 200,000 individuals, leading to rapid emigration. According to BBC, many people who were born in Cape Verde live in other parts of the world, having taken refuge from the country’s paralyzing droughts. These droughts not only affect the livelihood of residents, but also the local economy. For instance, during the 1990s, up to 80% of the country’s grain crops were rendered useless due to severe droughts.
To help combat hunger in the small island nation, the World Food Programme (WFP) established a school feeding program in 1979, shouldering almost all of the operation costs. The feeding program consisted of providing free meals to schools in Cape Verde. Not only did this program provide sustenance to children, it also increased school enrollment rates, thereby inadvertently promoting education as well.
In response to the feeding program, Jose Maria Neves, the country’s prime minister, proclaimed, “School meals allow us to improve children’s nutrition, which adds to the development of human capital…This is a strong investment in the future, one that we hope will strengthen social cohesion and enhance the quality of life for Cape Verdeans.”
However, after decades of relying on the WFP to help cover the costs of the feeding program, in 2007, Cape Verde announced that it would take full responsibility for the school feeding program. From that moment onward, Cape Verde’s financing for the program increased from providing 15% of funds to providing 100% of funds.
The collaborative model established by the WFP and Cape Verde has revolutionized the manner in which hunger has been addressed. Rather than simply providing needy countries with food, the school feeding programs bequeath their partner countries with tools for sustainable success. The feeding programs tackle two issues at once by providing food to satiate hunger and also by attracting children to promote education.
Since the implementation of the school feeding program, dozens of nations have followed the precedent established by Cape Verde and have also taken full responsibility of their meal programs. According to the WFP, this ongoing improvement in combating hunger has set Central and West Africa on track to achieve a significant number of its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
– Phoebe Pradhan