Saturday, April 15th, 2017

I can’t believe that this year is already over. I’m sitting in the Accra airport writing this not able to understand where the time has gone. I distinctly remember getting off the airplane in August, shockingly overwhelmed by the heat, unsure of what was instore for me. That first night spent at Agoo hostel seems so far away now. This year ended up bringing me more than I could have hoped for. I made amazing, smart friends that I can have intense development debates with one minute, and then go out and dance like an idiot with the next. I learned how to live outside my comfort zone, and adapt to situations completely out of my control. Most importantly, I’ve been able to attach tangible experience to Anthro/Development theory I’ve learned through text books. This year was truly an invaluable experience, and I would do it all over again if I could.

The best advice I can give to someone living abroad, or even just traveling, is to go with the flow. Situations will arise that are completely out of your control, and you will have no option but to accept it. You don’t have time to panic or stress, you just need to evaluate your next logical steps. Also, never be afraid to ask a local stranger for help. Specifically, in most of West Africa, I’m certain almost anyone will be more than happy to assist you.

I’m sure I will have more reflecting to do once I’m home wallowing in homesickness for this country. But for now, it almost time for me to board my flight so I can go home and maul my dog and parrot.

Ps I hate flying. Wish me luck.

 

Your girl,

Cultured Tay

Ghana School Feeding Programme

 

In November I was doing fieldwork to assess the the Ghana School Feeding Programme in the Northern and Upper East regions.  I want to share my findings, however I’m honestly just too lazy to write all about it again. So, here is a portion of the essay I submitted on the topic.

 

…….

To demonstrate how the Home Grown School Programme (HGSP) plays out nationally, the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) will serve as an example on a narrower scale. It began in September 2005 with support from the Dutch Government, NEPAD, WFP, World Vision International (WVI) and a handful of other external donors. Similar to the HGSFP, the GSFP has three key objectives. Firstly, it hopes to reduce hunger and malnutrition in all primary school students through the provision of one hot, nutritious meal a day. Secondly, it will use these meals as an incentive for school enrollment, attendance and retention in order to promote national primary education. And thirdly, it plans to purchase all foodstuffs locally to enhance economic productivity of small-holder farmers (SEND, 10). It is through these goals that the aim of boosting the child’s attention span in the classroom through proper nutrition could be met, while also encouraging the local small holder farming economy to prosper. Similarly, food would be used to improve school attendance, as well as the cognitive learning in each pupil by increasing the consumption of food with sound nutritional value (Sulemana, M., et al., 423).

Within Ghana, there is a general issue of school enrollment in the upper regions, with the Northern region having the lowest school enrollment rate in the entire country (Sulemana, M., et al.,  423). All children old enough to attend school, are granted access to free basic education as of 1995 through the Free Compulsory Basic Education (F’CUBE) policy. However, despite this many children are not enrolled in school due to a number of socioeconomic factors (Government of Ghana, Web). When in poverty, having a child attain education may not hold as much value to parents as having them hawk or sell in the marketplace to generate income. Perhaps the cost of school materials and a uniform is too much for them to bare, or maybe the indirect cost such as the loss of child labour is too great for them. With these factors considered, food works as an incentive to get families to send their children to school, as it relieves the burden for the parents to provide them with lunch themselves. It is also essential to educate the family on the cycle of poverty, and that by allowing their children to go to school they will have a greater chance of being better off in the future.

It is evident that the effects of this programme have been helping to relieve child hunger across the country since its inception. Only two years after it’s implementation 476,083 school students benefited from the programme across Ghana, and by the end of 2010 it helped provide for over 1.4 million children beneficiaries (Sulemana, M., et al., 426 & Quayea, W., et al., 430). A target to cover 2.5 million student beneficiaries by the end of 2015 was set as a goal, but the real statistics have yet to be published (Government of Ghana, Web). With school enrollment significantly rising since the introduction of GSFP, it is clear the programme is truly working towards getting more children in primary schools.  Yet there have been reported cases where people shift schools to attend one which hosts the GSFP; so while enrollment rates may be increasing in a particular beneficiary school, it may not accurately reflect overall attendance of the entire country or region (Quayea, W., et al., 436).

However, while school enrollment may be increasing, there are some significant challenges within the GSFP which should be noted. Despite being further accredited by external research, much of the information on this matter was discovered during field work conducted through a mini-placement with the IDST 3790 course. We experimented with a number of semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and a community score card with the use of Participatory Learning Approaches (PLA) in order to gather research.  Direct observation was key to obtaining information which may not have been appropriate to ask without offending anyone or receiving biased answers. We met with the District Implementation Committee (DIC) who oversees the programme at all schools from the district level, which is meant to ensure monitoring with the help of the School Implementation Committee (SIC) (Government of Ghana, Web). Once at the school we met with most of the SIC and conducted a Semi-Structured Interview with a few of the members. Later, a Community Score Card was done with twelve student beneficiaries to receive their perspective on the matter.  Through the use of these tools, we were able to highlight some of the main casual factors limiting the optimal success of the programme.

Our findings in the field revealed two key factors which are hampering the potential of the GSFP. These include proper monitoring and evaluation, as well as the timely release of funds to the caterers. The DIC admitted to the challenge of funds reaching the caterers on time, although it is unclear why the lack of funding is an issue when there is a handful of external donors as partners to this programme. Once speaking with a caterer she claimed that she had not been paid for the last two terms, and has been left to pre finance the entire past school year. Because she has been not receiving adequate funding, she has been unable to purchase foodstuffs locally –failing to comply with one of the major aims of the programme (Sulemana, M., et al., 427-428). Similarly, the 80 Pesewas (300P = $1CAD) allocated per child is not enough to provide a diversified and nutritionally balanced menu. The children have therefore not received any fruits, egg or meats because of their expensive monetary value. It can then be said the GSFP is failing to comply with 2 of its objectives: provision of nutritionally exceptional food, as well as purchasing foodstuffs locally.

Yet, it is possible to mitigate these issues which have manifested in the implantation of the GSFP through a number of potential remedies. Because of the lack of monitoring done by both the DIC and the SIC, there is no clear communication channel of evaluation. Perhaps if regularly scheduled meetings were adhered too, the SIC could hold the DIC accountable to search for the provision of funds to the caterer. It is very clear that success of this programme crucially relies on the timely release of funds to the caterers as they are the ones in charge of providing the food, as well as purchasing it locally. Seeing as it was hoped that the GSFP would boost the local agric economy through the balance of supply-demand linkages, the timeliness of funding must be addressed in order to remedy the failure of this goal (Quayea, W., et al., 441).

Furthermore, it would also be important to raise the issue of having such a wide variety of external donors. Perhaps if the Government of Ghana took full responsibility for the costs of this programme it would be easier to trace accountability. If so many donors are available, it may become easier to shift the blame to another party. For this reason, I believe the Government should be the exclusive national duty bearer for this programme; so if the funds are not being distributed, the National Secretariat can be directly held accountable.  With this in mind, the funds distributed are simply not adequate to provide for meals of sufficient nutritional value. The government must prioritize the allocation of funds in order to grant the programme better funding to allow for a higher pay to the caterers.

In conclusion, food insecurity is a serious matter which the United Nations has been exhausting efforts to address. Through the Millennium Development Goals, they helped influence national policies which would help to reduce poverty and hunger, as well as increase primary education. The Ghana School Feeding Programme, as an offset of the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, has certainly attempted to achieve the goals laid out by the overarching policy. It is evident that it is encouraging the primary school children of Ghana to enroll, attend and retain a school education through the incentive of food provision. However, the programme fails to meet the goals of providing nutritionally balanced meals and the purchase of locally grown foodstuffs. These issues may be addressed through adequate funding dispersed in a timely manner. The Ghana School Feeding Programme is working towards food sovereignty for the children throughout the country, by assuring they are not left hungry. The next steps to bettering this policy may include a diversification of foodstuffs provided, because to achieve national food sovereignty there must not be a lack of choice in the food one consumes.

 

 

References

FAO (2013) The State of Food and Agriculture: Food Systems for Better Nutrition. Pg 1-6.

Government of Ghana. Ghana School Feeding Programme. Retrieved from: http://www.schoolfeeding.gov.gh/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=130&Itemid=139

Sulemana, M., et al. (2013). The Challenges and Prospects of the School Feeding Programme in Northern Ghana in Development in Practice. Vol. 23, No. 3, 422–432                                                               DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09614524.2013.781127

Pinstrup-Andersen, P. (2009) Food security: definition and measurement in Food Sec. Vol. 1, 5-7                  DOI: 10.1007/s12571-008-0002-y

Quayea, W., et al. (2010).  Understanding the concept of food sovereignty using the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) in International Review of Sociology. Vol. 20, No. 3, 427- 444                             DOI: 10.1080/03906701.2010.511895

United Nations. (2015) Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20PC%20final.pdf

SEND Ghana (2008). Whose Decision Counts. A Monitoring Report on the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP).

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

9:32pm

I can’t believe I’ve been here for over 2 months!!

It feels like the time is flying by so fast, but when I imagine my first night arriving in Accra it seems so long ago. It’s probably because I have been so busy. During September and October, I was staying in Cape Coast and finished two full-year credits in a matter of two months. I was living with a lady named Auntie Ivy in a community called Ola, and cabbing into the University of Cape Coast for classes Monday-Thursday. While the others in my program had a good experience with their homestays, me and my roommate Yasaman grew to really hate where we lived. Our Auntie lived by herself and was probably in her late 60s- early 70s. She would speak a total of about 5 words to us in a day, including her strange grunting noises we learned to take as responses to our questions. On nights we would come in late, it seemed like she would punish us by leaving a single piece of bread for us to share in the morning for breakfast. When we were lucky, we got two slices of plain white bread and maybe half an orange each. The occasions which she did actually speak to us in full sentences was when she found a reason to yell at us. Either our garbage got too full before we took it out, we came in at 7:15pm when we said it would be 7pm, or if we had the fan on for too long during the day,  were all considered times when “we were unfair to her”.  Things she could have warned us about before, or talked to us about after seemed to be a huge issue with her. But, if she had just talked to us we could have made sure these things would never happen! We have this theory that she only became this way after we went to church with her once and never again. She probably got her hopes up thinking we were going the entire time we lived there. Oh well.

But finally, we have completed our first two courses and moved out of Auntie Ivy’s house. Finally. We began our journey up to the North Friday October 28th.  It was a very long road trip which we broke up over the entire weekend, crossing 3 regions of Ghana. First visiting the half way point Kumasi, then all the way up to Bolga and then back down a few hours to Tamale. We will be staying in Tamale for the next month for a course called Local Dynamics of Change, which provides us with a hands-on practical experience to apply our theoretical knowledge. We will actually be in the field evaluating development programs and determining whether or not they are truly being effective. This basically what I want to do in my future career so I feel so lucky that I’m getting the chance to practice the skills now.  Also my professor is a total development badass/legend and I am so excited from how much I’m going to learn from him.

The North is so much hotter though! I felt the sun less directly while we were living on the coast, and at least we were near the ocean and could go for a swim or the cool breeze. This city is so cool though so I’m really not complaining. I’m missing little weird things I didn’t expect to be so significant. In terms of food I really miss sushi, burritos and dill pickles, but anyone who talks to me probably knows this by now seeing as it’s all I talk about. I also really miss going to the gym. I was going 5-6 days a week when I was at home at it was the only way I really knew how to deal with stress. I’ve tried working out here in my room, and I do sometimes, but it’s just soooo hot it feels impossible. Someone mail me pre workout please…

But guess what???? I’m visiting home in a month! I’m excited but also really comfortable here, but it will probably be a nice break to binge on all of the things I miss.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

10:09 pm

Well, I made it!

It already feels as if the time is going so fast, although it’s only my fourth night in Ghana. It is not that different than I imagined, but I suppose that is due to my previous travel experience. Despite having been to other African countries, I’m definitely still experiencing slight culture shock. While it’s not so much due to cultural difference, I find myself feeling homesick and always trying to be on the internet, or communicate to others back home in some way. However, I was expecting to feel this way as I am such a home body. There is literally nothing more I love than laying in my moms huge bed with my dogs and an endless mug of Earl Grey, catching up on my favorite soap operas. For most of the others I am with it is there first time in Africa, so I can hardly imagine how they are feeling.

My first night here was spent in a hostel in Accra, the capital city. When we woke up the first thing we did after breakfast was go to immigration to get our residents visa… and my picture looks like a mugshot…as usual. Before heading to the University of Cape Coast we stopped at VERY western shopping mall, which had shops including Mac makeup, an Apple store, Payless shoes and best of all a Second Cup!! I got an extra large tea, which in turn made me feel very nauseous on the bumpy bus ride to the University and I had to ask them to pull over so I could puke on the side of the road. If I’m being completely honest I got it all over my shoes. About 10 minutes later we stopped for a bathroom break, which of course was a squat toilet (literally a hole in the ground). And yes, I did get pee on my shoes too.

The following two days were spent settling into the University, which to my surprise is huge and hosts around 60,000 students. It’s basically the size of a small town, and has anything you could ever need including a hospital, dentist, fire and police station, 6 residence, restaurants, a market place and so on. You could live at this place and never have to leave.

Tonight I settled in to my home-stay, where Yasman and I live with Auntie Ivy and her two dogs. She cooked us such a delicious dinner of the traditional meal ‘Red Red’, which I think was spicy beans and tomato sauce? Regardless, the food here is awesome and it is surprisingly easy to be vegan. I’m so okay with having rice and fruit for almost every meal.

So basically I’m homesick and stuff but I expected it and I know I’ll get over it. I think the hardest part is not being around people I am familiar with. Like it’s a really weird feeling and I don’t know the best way to describe it. When I’m busy doing things I feel like I could live here for years, but sometimes I’ll get this wave of reality and go into shock that I actually signed up for this. Regardless, I am happy and grateful to be here and I get excited every morning to see what the day will bring, which is not necessarily something I would feel at home.

 

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

10:02pm –  2 months prior to departure date

Should I be nervous? It seems to be the first thing I am asked when mentioning this trip to anyone. “Are you not scared?”,  “Are you sure it’s safe?”, and most importantly; “Will you have WiFi??!”.

Yeah I’m scared! I’m not going to lie and say I’m not nervous about the fact I will be living in West Africa for 8 months. It only seems reasonable to be afraid of things we are uncertain of. However, I do not believe being nervous is a reason to stop yourself from proceeding with something that could be great. When given the amazing opportunity to study in Ghana with my school, Trent University, I knew it was something that I had to do. I began traveling at an early age which made me fall in love with the world. I know that sounds lame but it’s true. I’m so interested in humans and the earth that I study Anthropology and International Development studies as an outlet. I want to understand people as a whole in order to better conceptualize how society progresses. Add that to my love for traveling and you have an aspiring ethnographic researcher!  (Basically I want to travel around and study different cultural concepts and write about it in books that are important).

So yes, I am nervous, but how boring would life be if you never challenged yourself? I’m a firm believer that you manifest your reality through your mentality. Since I have been waking up for over the past year in the mindset “F*ck yeah I’m moving to Ghana!”, I’ve been subconsciously setting myself up for success. If you constantly tell yourself you will succeeded in doing something, you will. Go try it out. Remind yourself of your goals daily and watch what can happen.

It’s two months before I leave and I’m getting more excited and nervous everyday. My biggest concern is probably my diet. Being vegan I’m unsure of what I can actually eat there, and fear of offending someone potentially offering me some sort of non-vegan meal. I also fear the heat, but I know I will adjust eventually. I am also more nervous of coming back afterwards than I am to arrive;  I know I wont be the same as I am now. I fear of my mind growing to the point where the self I am now will no longer be recognized. But I can hardly wait. I do not know what this trip will bring but I am guaranteed an adventure.

I decided that this opportunity would be a good test run to see if this is truly what I want to spend my life doing. I’m going to post updates here  throughout my time abroad, because it’s easier to just share with everyone in one place instead of writing my stories to each person I may not get the chance to speak with. I wanted to do one now to trace my change in attitude as my time there goes on. Who knows, I could end up running home week 2, switching my major to molecular biology (doubtful). The truth is that I do not know what to expect. But I have to at least try. How would i feel if i didn’t?

10:58pm