The SAARC Development Fund (SDF), in late July, approved a USD 8.58 million grant under its Social Window to improve nutrition in Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka with the World Food Programme (WFP).
The project titled 'Scaling up rice through social safety net programmes in Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka' was submitted by the WFP as a regional project for co-financing by SDF, and finalized during the 33rd SDF Board Meeting held late July.
Aiming to collaborate with the member states to address micronutrient deficiencies among the population, the project will prioritize vulnerable groups by scaling up the distribution of fortified rice through national social safety net programmes and school feeding programmes.
“We feel that fortifying rice has great potential to help fight hidden hunger – a form of malnutrition - on a large scale and improve the quality of life of the people in these three countries where rice is a staple food", said SDF's CEO Dr Sunil Motiwal.
“The programme also envisions to train 5,000 teachers and school caterers on rice fortification and food safety practices".
Dr Motiwal further noted that thousands of government officials will also receive training on food safety and quality assurance.
SDF estimates that the three-year project will benefit about 800,000 school children in Bhutan and Sri Lanka, as well as 200,000 people in remote areas of Nepal.
The fund will provide a total of USD 2.25 million to Bhutan, while Nepal will and Sri Lanka will receive USD 2.75 million and USD 3.58 million respectively. The total budget needed for the WFP project stands at USD 25.65 million.
The SDF is mandated to build regional integration and economic cooperation through project funding in member states. Since its inception in April 2010, the SDF is headed by eight member states, with the Secretariat based in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Currently, SDF is implementing over 100 projects across all member nations under its three funding windows with a total fund commitment of USD 214 million.
A total of 54 projects have been completed within the last 10 years, benefitting thousands of people in SAARC countries.