Linking school feeding programs to local small-scale farmers
There are 239 million food insecure people in sub-Saharan Africa. To assure that the school children are fed and retained in school, the government of Kenya supports feeding programs in schools that are in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country. Initially the program was supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) until 2009 when WFP gradually handed it over to the government of Kenya to develop a homegrown solution to the feeding initiative. In June AMPATH signed an agreement with WFP to roll out the Home Grown School Meals Programme in Elgeyo Marakwet County, just east of Eldoret.
The Home Grown School Feeding links school feeding programs with local small-scale farmer production and creates an ongoing market for small landholders. School feeding can be anything from providing school meals or snacks eaten during the school hours, to dry home food rations that are distributed at the end of the month if students attend school regularly. The program not only addresses food insecurity, but also it benefits the small-scale farmer who often times are unable to easily sell their produce at the market. With the Home Grown School Feeding program, the small-scale farmers help maintain a continuous supply of food to the schools while at the same time the schools improve business for small-scale farmers and stimulate local economy.
By August, AMPATH in partnership with the State Department of Agriculture identified 40 smallholder farmer organizations in the county. One includes the GISE groups that AMPATH has worked with in Keiyo. AMPATH has also met with head teachers and school procurement committee chairmen from 79 public primary schools to introduce them to program. The initiative has been received with excitement by the farmers, the teachers and the government officials for agriculture and education. AMPATH will also introduce kitchen and sack gardens in the schools to demonstrate agriculture to the students and address the nutrition challenges in the households.
“This program is an incentive to economic strengthening of the community,” said Cleophas Wanyonyi Chesoli, AMPATH Program Manager for Safety Net Programs. “It will provide valuable market opportunity for the county farmers to sell their surplus. I see this as a tool to helping rethink agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas. And I believe is the best way to sustain the children in schools and ensure improved household economy and therefore sustained healthcare.”