A Dubai Cares delegation recently concluded a series of field visits in Ghana to monitor and evaluate its 4-year Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program launched in the country in 2012. The aim of the AED 9,917,100 (US$2.7 million) Dubai Cares funded program is to support the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP), a poverty reduction initiative launched in 2005 by the Ghanaian government, in increasing access and retention of school age children, particularly for those living in poverty and suffering from food insecurity. The program is having an impact on 320,800 primary school children and 82,078 rural households, enhancing education prospects for children and providing farmer communities with reliable markets to sell their produce.
In developing countries, 66 million children go to school hungry every day. Children that don’t eat don’t learn. Moreover, 600 million children have reduced access to education and poor health due to entirely preventable parasite worm infections. School feeding programs exist in all sub-Saharan African countries. However, whilst these programs seek to reach and feed all children, they are often too small, unsustainable and unable to offer nutritious food. In the same communities, smallholder farmers, often unable to reach a market, struggle to make a living selling their food. The solution is clear: local food for local children - school feeding programs which look after the health and wealth of the whole community.
Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: “This field visit to Ghana underlines our commitment to effective monitoring and evaluation that ensures a culture of continuous learning and greater impact. It also helps us maintain a close relationship with the communities we are supporting, particularly Ghana’s poor rural communities where the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program is playing a central role by increasing access to education and learning, and improving children’s health and nutrition, with its integration into the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP). In addition, the obvious impact it is having in supporting economic activity by helping local farmers supplement their household incomes as well as mothers playing the role of caterers is heartening. I am pleased with the impact our program has had in Ghana as we do our part in helping the government make progress towards achieving its primary education agenda.”
Daniel Mumuni, Regional Coordinator, Partnership for Child Development (PCD) West Africa said: ”The knowledge and lessons learnt from this Dubai Cares funded program will be felt not just by children in Ghana but also by millions of school children across the world. Governments are looking to strengthen their own school feeding programs based on the good practices around nutrition and health that are being developed as part of this program. Research conducted by PCD with the World Bank and World Food Program (WFP) show that school feeding programs improve children’s health especially when integrated with comprehensive school health and nutrition programs. The strength of this Dubai Cares funded program lies in integrating nutrition, deworming and school feeding resulting in a holistic approach to children’s health.”
The first component of the HGSF program, which is currently being implemented with Partnership for Child Development (PCD), aims to improve the nutritional quality of the food being provided so that the nutrition requirements for energy, protein, vitamins A and C, Iron, Zinc and iodine of children 7-10 year old could be met using a variety of foods. In turn, schools will advise farmers on what crops need to be grown to meet these nutritional needs. The second component is a community sensitization campaign, which educates parents about the importance of education and nutrition for school children and their families. The third component is a complimentary deworming program to ensure it is the child being fed not the worms. 50,000 children each year are treated with deworming tablets which are cheap, safe and effective.
Home grown school feeding programs are a win-win for both children and the local rural community. By providing nutritious meals to school children, they are more likely to attend and stay in school and are better able to learn whilst they are there. By providing a stable market for locally grown food, HGSF programs benefits the local agricultural economy in general and the smallholder farmers in particular.