Grow at home, eat at school to change lives
Home-grown school feeding in Liberia is helping to boost farmers’ incomes and keep children, especially girls, in school
Fatou Botoe remembers the time she used to find it hard to concentrate in class. Without money to buy lunch during recess, she would be so hungry as to consider leaving school.
Since the Velleta Public School in Liberia’s Margibi County began serving hot meals, students like Fatou do not feel like skipping lessons.
“I am happy to go to school because I can eat, and my stomach can be filled, and I can focus on my lesson,” says 16-year-old Fatou who dreams of becoming a medical doctor.
School meals are a vital social protection scheme in Liberia, providing children with the necessary food and nutrition they need to grow while improving access to education. They encourage school children, especially girls, to enroll, attend and remain in school.
The Liberian Government supports 246,000 schoolchildren with daily hot meals through partners including the World Food Programme (WFP) and two international non-governmental organisations: Mary’s Meals and ZOA .
More and more, the programmes are following the Home-grown School Feeding (HGSF) model. This means that the food for the meals is sourced from smallholder farmers within the community. It allows the children to eat foods they are used to, and which are very nutritious.
It is this model that operates at Fatou’s school where another student, Blessing Padmore, is even convinced that it helped him become the top student of his class last year.
“The food can make people healthy. The food is good,” says the 10-year-old.
Home-grown school meals also provide local farmers and businesses with a predictable outlet for their products, leading to more stable incomes, more investment, higher productivity and the creation of jobs for youth and women in the local communities.
Samuel Winnie, a smallholder farmer who could only enroll four out of his six children in school because of the lack of funds, has seen an increase in his income after he began supplying his surplus to the school feeding scheme.
“The home-grown school feeding programme has supported me,” says Samuel. ‘I got all my children in school, and I got money.”
WFP and the Government of Liberia piloted a HGSF programme which reached six schools with produce grown by local farmers in 2016, increasing to 12 schools in 2017. This programme has ensured smallholder farmers with a market for their produce, therefore enhancing production and providing an income and employment opportunities. WFP will expand this pilot programme to 62 schools (20,000 students) between September and December 2018.
However, as schools resume this September, 80 percent of school-going children in Liberia (1.2 million in total) will not be receiving school meals. WFP plans to assist about 145,000 children through a combination of interventions including hot meals, take-home rations to encourage girls attend school and home-grown school feeding, but it is short of nearly US$ 6.7 million.
“All friends of the Liberian people need to come now to support the country’s next generation,” says Bienvenu Djossa, WFP’s Country Director in Liberia. “Education is the foundation for any future success and school feeding can contribute enormously to that. It is a chance to contribute to changing the lives of millions of girls and boys.”
In July 2018, the Government and the UN jointly convened the National Stakeholders Conference on Home-Grown School Feeding. This Conference garnered support from the Government, development partners and the private sector for the implementation of a National HGSF Programme.
Read more about WFP’s work in Liberia