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Burkina Faso's way to a healthy, not hungry, future

Story by World Food Programme January 19th, 2017

In January 2017, the World Food Programme (WFP), Project Everyone and UNICEF launched the Healthy Not Hungry campaign to speed up progress on Sustainable Development Goals 2 - Zero Hunger, and 3 - Good Health and Well Being.

Knowing that our choices when we cook can help promote a healthier, more sustainable world, chefs from around the world are using their work and influence to advocate for these goals.

In Burkina Faso, celebrity chef Christian Abegan, judge on the first-ever pan-African cooking TV show "Star Chef", kick-started the campaign preparing lunch at a local school in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region.

Dori is also home to the WFP's innovative project Projet Lait, which enables local dairy producers to market their goods to school feeding programmes. Facilitating access to markets for smallholder farmers and producers is considered to be one of the key steps to Zero Hunger.

Choosing local ingredients from family farms helps make food systems more sustainable. Photo: WFP/Esther Ouoba
Ensuning children have access to the nutrients they need as they grow up is a key step to combat malnutrition. Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
"To cook for someone - rich or poor - is to love and bond." Chef Christian Abegan. Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

An act of love

Using fresh, local ingredients – also considered an important step to achieve Zero Hunger – chef Abegan cooked a hearty lunch for 500 guests, most of whom pupils from Dori schools. “For me, cooking is an act of love, and I just want to share love with these children and this village. I have been inspired by their joint efforts to build a better community and give their children the opportunity to live a healthy, not hungry life,” he said. "Nutrition and education need to become a real priority and be part of a nation’s development," he added.

The best meal

His efforts were enthusiastically received by the children. "This is the best meal I’ve ever had. Thank you Chef Abegan," said 12-year-old Diallo Mariama Alou, as she tucked into her "paella du Sahel" with lamb and fresh vegetables.

For Diallo Mariama Alou, 12,"This is the best meal I’ve ever had!" Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
Daily school meals help keep children in school and give them energy to concentrate on their studies. Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
In 2015, the national rate of global acute malnutrition for children aged under five rose to 10.4 percent. Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

white gold

The menu also included fresh yogurt from the WFP-supported Projet Lait, under which locally-produced yogurt is included in the meals (breakfast and lunch) pupils of around 20 schools across the region receive everyday as part of the school feeding programme.

Milk, known here as "white gold", comes from small-scale cattle breeders and is transformed into yogurt at a milk processing unit run by a women's association in Dori. Projet Lait, with the backing of the governments of Burkina Faso, Canada, Luxembourg and of the Cartier Charitable Foundation, has turned a whole community – and above all the women from the milk processing plant – into custodians of the children’s well-being.

"The yogurt we drink at school is the best in the world. It is so delicious," smiled 10-year-old Diallo Hama Amadou.

In 2015, the national rate of global acute malnutrition in children under five rose to 10.4 percent. Photo: WFP/Esther Ouoba
"The yogurt we have at school is delicious!" Diallo Hama Amadou, 10. Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
Locally-produced yogurt is distributed to 3460 children across the Sahel every school day. Photo: WFP/Esther Ouoba
It is estimated that child malnutrition is costing Burkina Faso n estimated 7.7 per cent of GDP a year. Photo: WFP/Esther Ouoba
Dori children say having yogurt at school makes them happy. Photo: WFP/Esther Ouoba

a healthy, not hungry, future

The Sahel is one of Burkina Faso’s poorest and most malnutrition-prone areas. "Before [the school meals programme started], I had to stay hungry the whole day. Now, my stomach is not empty anymore," reflected Diallo Fatoumata Mamoudou, 12. "My mum says that the food I eat at school will keep me strong and healthy," added 10-year-old Dicko Mamoudou Hamidou.

Their words were echoed by one of the parents attending the lunch: "As a mother, it is a big relief for me to know that my son has something to eat at school," said Diallo Mariam.

By providing children with nutritious food that allows them to concentrate on their studies and develop their full potential, while at the same time supporting the local economy, the project contributes to paving the way to a healthier, not hungry, future for the Sahel and the whole country.

Footnote: Story by Simon Pierre Diouf/Esther Ouoba/Simona Beltrami
Dori, Sahel Region, Burkina Faso