A Healthy School Meal: Just Another Day In The Lives Of 3 Million Children In Nigeria

by Kim Boateng Posted on August 13th, 2017

ABUJA, NIGERIA. Nigeria’s National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) one of its four ongoing Social Investment Programmes (SIP) now feeds close to three million school children daily in 14 states with Ogun and Osun states having the most children covered. 33,895 cooks have been engaged by the government in the communities where the schools are located across the 14 states. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice-President), Mr Laolu Akande, made this known in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday.

According to Laolu Akande, the Nigerian Government is now close to its target of feeding three million primary school pupils this year under the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP).

“The 14 states that have been covered under the School Feeding Programme are: Anambra, Enugu, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ebonyi, Zamfara, Delta, Abia, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Taraba and Kaduna.

So far, a total of 2,827,501 school children are currently benefiting from the School Feeding Programme, which is well on course to achieve the Federal Government’s projection to feed over three million pupils this year,’’ he said.

According to him, more states and primary school pupils across the country are expected to benefit from the feeding programme by the time schools re-open next month for a new session.

Homegrown School Feeding (HGSF)

Home-grown school feeding (HGSF) is a school feeding programme that offers food produced and purchased within a country. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) HGSF particular focus is to produce and purchase food for the school feeding programme from local small-scale farmers.

In 2003, African governments, in their aim to restore agricultural growth, food security, adequate nutritional levels and rural development in Africa, endorsed the HGSF programme of the Comprehensive Africa Development Programme (CAADP). In 2003 the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) identified HGSF as having an immediate impact on food insecurity in Africa with the potential to contribute to long-term development goals.

The United Nations 2005 World Summit recommended ¨the expansion of local school meal programmes, using home-grown foods where possible¨ as one of the “quick impact initiatives” to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially for rural areas facing the dual challenge of high chronic malnutrition and low agricultural productivity (World Summit Outcome, 2005; UN Millennium Project, 2005a).

Finally, the African Union Special Food Summit, in December 2006, reaffirmed the HGSF initiative and resolved that the implementation of HGSF must be expanded to reach at least 20 percent of member states by 2008.

Motivated by NEPAD, the United Nations World Food Programme, (WFP) and the Millennium Hunger Task Force (MHTF) launched a pilot Home-Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFHP) designed to link school feeding to agricultural development through the purchase and use of locally and domestically produced food. NEPAD and WFP signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on HGSF, among other things.

Twelve pilot countries (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia) were invited to implement the novel programme. So far, three of them have produced specific plans and two (Ghana and Nigeria) are already implementing a nationwide programme.

Many governments, including Angola, Ghana, and Nigeria, have stated that every child attending public school should benefit from school feeding. Using this approach, the potential demand for school feeding is the total number of children enrolled in primary school, which in Africa is 114 million children (UNESCO, 2007 estimate).

Homegrown School Feeding (HGSF) Success in Ghana and Nigeria has been emulated outside Africa by countries like Brazil and Chile

Success with the project in Ghana and Nigeria has been emulated outside Africa by countries like Brazil and Chile however practical issues remain. These include but are not limited to assuring minimum nutritional standards are maintained, maintaining a continuous supply of food to schools, ensuring food quality and safety, countering corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency, reducing costs of procurement from small-scale farmers, preventing price increases, protecting farmers’ own food stocks, protecting crop diversity, avoiding increasing the community’s work load, avoiding distracting teachers from other responsibilities, transporting food to food-insecure areas, facilitating institutional coordination and balancing costs and benefits

Based on NEPAD recommendations, most African countries use a decentralized, or bottom-up, approach that relies heavily on local structures. Decentralization allows greater room for creative, albeit informal, implementation that better responds to local needs and contexts, which in turn may foster local community involvement vital to successful HGSF.

Nigeria’s decentralized, informal procurement system, for instance, allows each school management committee to purchase foodstuffs and develop menus that reflect local dietary patterns and traditions. Such services are better able to use locally adapted technologies, support coordinated community action and promote partnerships. Decentralization may indeed provide an impetus for a radical overhaul of school feeding programmes.

Children enjoy a healthy school meal under Nigeria’s Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP)

In many decentralized HGSF programmes, implementation is delegated to regional or local governments (e.g. in Ghana, India and South Africa), or even to individual schools (e.g. in Nigeria and Thailand). HGSF presents added burdens of local food procurement to these regional or local entities already strapped for resources. In India, many states and schools lack some of the most basic infrastructure requirements, such as water supply, kitchen sheds, storage facilities and utensils.

Many of the funding issues and solutions that emerge in HGSF programmes are similar to those of school feeding programmes. Experiences from the latter may prove to be useful in the context of HGSF.

School feeding programmes are funded in a variety of ways. Brazil, Chile, India, Nigeria and South Africa implement self-funded school feeding programmes. In other countries, financing packages for school feeding programmes combine international and national funding, where the donor-funded element may be in the form of cash or in-kind donations.

Nigeria’s implementation, known as Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) has been no stranger to nearly all the issues highlighted, but on balance, has been a huge success.

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