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The U.N. World Food Program and a Japanese nongovernmental organization will ship to Cambodia 32 tons of rice harvested by children in Japan to help poor women and children in developing nations.

“We plan to distribute the rice to poor, fatherless homes and expectant mothers for their nutritional fortification,” said Shinobu Matsumoto, a WFP public information worker in Japan.

The rice was grown in about 80 fields in 22 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Niigata and Kagoshima, in response to calls by the NGO, the Forum for Peace, Human Rights and Environment.

Some children got involved in the project through their schools, while others participated with their parents as part of community activities, said Tadafumi Ichimura, a senior official of the NGO.

The organization has been entrusting the rice to WFP for distribution in Cambodia since 1999. It has sent 157 tons of rice since then.

Between 1999 and 2003, the rice was provided to For the Smile of the Child, an aid center for children in Phnom Penh, and elementary schools. But this year, the WFP and the NGO plan to use the crop for poor women and children, Matsumoto said.

“Food service support programs for Cambodian schools will also continue in the future,” she said.

The aid activities have fostered exchanges between the two countries, with 10 Japanese elementary and junior high school students who raised the rice visiting the aid center last year, Ichimura said.

The rice will be shipped Thursday from Yokohama port and arrive in Cambodia on April 9.

The NGO has also sent rice to the western African country of Mali since 1985 under the project, Ichimura said.

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