District-level inception workshops for the establishment of an Early Warning System (EWS) on Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) have been held in different towns and cities across the country.
These workshops were organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of National Security (ONS).
11 participants were drawn from each of the 12 Regional and the Western Rural Districts. These included District Planning Officers, Monitoring and Evaluation Officers, Chairmen of District and City Council’s Agriculture Committees, Nutrition Officers, Statisticians, Paramount Chiefs and representatives from Farmers Associations.
On Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th June, 2012, participants from Bo, Pujehun, Bonthe and Moyamba Districts assembled at the Bo District Council Hall, while participants from Bombali, Tonkolili and Koinadugu held theirs at the Pastoral Centre in Makeni.
On Thursday 28th and Friday 29th June, 2012, participants from Kono, Kailahun, and the Kenema Districts converged on the Lukay’s Hall in Kenema City, while participants from Port Loko, Kambia and the Western Rural Districts gathered at the Conference Hall of the MAFFS in Port Loko town.
Giving a brief background about the EWS, the Lead Facilitator for the workshops in Bo and Kenema cities, Assistant Director of the Planning, Evaluation, Monitoring and Statistics Division (PEMSD) of MAFFS, Mr. Ajuba Sheriff, said the idea started in the Sahel Region where food and nutrition insecurity had been a problem for a long time now.
Mr. Sheriff added that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has mandated both MAFFS and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) to jointly handle the issue as MAFFS had the expertise on food while the MOHS know about nutrition.
He explained that the said data from the ONS had identified seven platforms that posed serious risks to national security, with food and nutrition insecurity being one of them. He said the purpose of the workshop was to prepare the minds of the participants for the deployment of EWS in all the districts in the country.
Mr. Sheriff added that a focal team has gathered key partners into a Multi Disciplinary Working Group (MDWG) and also established a Task Force Committee that will access, analyze and provide timely and appropriate evidence on food and nutrition insecurity, establish a national system for monitoring and harmonizing of data collection and to predict the vulnerability of certain communities, all in a bid to mitigate the effects of food and nutrition insecurity among populations.
Some of the modules for data collection included a national cropping calendar, crop forecasting, crop protection (phytosanitary), agromet data, pastorization forecast, hydrology, market information and food security. A Draft Working Plan for the EWS was also presented by the Programme Specialist of FAO, Ms. Sofie Isenberg.
In her comments, Madam Sallay Massaquoi, a participant from the Kenema District, said she was very much appreciative for what she had learnt from the workshop. She added that her mind was now ready to work with groups on the collection and analyzing of data that has to do with food and nutrition insecurity in her district.
In his contribution, Mr. Eric Sam from the Kailahun District, said that the workshop was very timely as issues that have to do with food and nutrition insecurity are seen as a threat to peace and stability within vulnerable populations everywhere. He continued that the training of personnel and the deployment of EWS on FNS could help to mitigate the negative effects it can cause on the population.
On her part, Madam Sia Manyeh from the Pujeheun District highlighted the areas which she termed as potential food and nutrition insecurity risk communities within her district. She commended the organizers for sensitizing and preparing them to meet the challenges posed and how to mitigate the effects of food and nutrition insecurity on vulnerable populations.
In his concluding statements, the Lead Facilitator said that funds were now available for the pilot phase of the EWS on food and nutrition insecurity in five districts in the country.