By providing balanced meals to primary school pupils in Lesotho, World Food Programme initiated a dynamic of self reliance in these schools
01 / 1999
1 - Context and Challenge
"They are just sleeping, they are hungry"says the primary school teacher to the programme evaluator. In the rural areas of Lesotho, schools are located in villages but many pupils have to walk one or two hours before reaching their school. They leave home very early in the morning with no breakfast. At one in the afternoon, they are just starving and cannot concentrate on what they are taught. World Food Programme (WFP)in collaboration with the Lesotho government designed a programme to alleviate short term hunger and improve the nutritious status to ultimately improve the attention span of the pupils in primary schools.
2- The actors
720 primary schools benefit or have benefitted from this program. 800 Kcal meal covering 40% of the daily needs of the child are distributed, The daily ratio is split into a porridge in the morning to alleviate the short term hunger and a lunch at noon.
Apart from the WFP officer, School Extension Officers provided by the Ministry of Education participate in the programme with nutritions officers. Furthermore, American Peace Corps are living in the middle of the people and report specifically for this project.
3- The method
In the sixties overseass religious organisations were distributing food in the schools. After various changes of partners, the Ministry of Education, through its School Self Reliance and Feeding Unit became the implementing agency while the Food Management Unit takes care of logistics. This programme is now totally under the authority of the government of Lesotho who requests food aid from donors that is channeled through WFP.
Food is distributed on a quarterly basis to schools. This is more costly but this was preferred to an annual distribution which supposed a perfect proper packaging of the food to avoid losses. Such packaging could only be made with food originated from the Northern countries. WFP prefers to buy on the local and regional markets but must therefore feed the system more frequenly.
The feeding project is coupled with self-reliance activities that are enhanced at the same occasion. The community - teachers, parents - are informed about the calendar and the dead-line of the food assistance. Non food items are distributed to the schools - tools, fences - by WFP while the government provides inputs for the fist six months - seeds, fertilisers, animals ---. Communities are encouraged to launch income generating activities that will be used to replace the external donor assistance.
A training fund is used by WFP to train feeding managers in self reliance activities with the involvement of the communities. This dynamic enhances local social set-up in order to take care of the school.
4- The outputs
In the lowlands areas, the assistance alrady phased out and a recent participatory evaluation revealed the perceptions of the communities. The government has to come out with a clear policy to follow-up self reliance activities rather than dropping them down when WFP phases out. People do participate and indirectly became more involved in solving the primary education problems of their area rather than depending on external actors or churches. However, the management of income generating activities needs to be given more importance because mismanagement already occured in some villages. It is recommended to organise exchanges between different communities for them to see how their colleagues solve or fail to solve their problems.
It is now a fact that all parents have understood the importance of providing food to school pupils.
5- The donors’ involvment
Donors are very positive with this project. Contrarilly to the other"Food for work"programme to build or maintain roads, the school feeding project enhance a positive change. It is now thought to focus on specific groups of the children population particularly the herdboys who escape from school at a very early stage.
Food assistance is very tricky for it generates dependency and disorganises the local food markets. The way it is done here is interesting: directing food aid towards children and linking it with self-reliance activities as well as a conscientisation of the community on the role it must play to ensure a good primary education to its children.
However, this needs a bigger involvement of the Ministry in monitoring the activities once the programme is out. At the same time, there is a need to assist the community in managing such activity. The proposition to organise exchange visits seems promissing.
World Food Programme Officer - School Feeding Project and Emergencies
P.O. Box 301, Maseru 100, Lesotho - E-mail : Salha.firstname.lastname@example.org
[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]
Interview with HAMDANI, Salha