This year, International Co-operative Day, celebrated on 5 July, has the theme 'Co-operative enterprises achieve sustainable development for all.' In Malawi, WFP works with smallholder farming co-ops in its Home Grown School Feeding programme to sustain a cycle of community development.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has supported education in Malawi with daily school meals for the past 15 years. These daily hot meals now reach more than 800,000 students in some 800 pre-primary and primary schools.
Two years ago, WFP launched a pilot initiative in 10 schools called Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) which links school meals with local agricultural markets, providing a local and reliable outlet for smallholders – and, of course, vital nutrition for students. Under this programme, WFP partners with schools to procure food from farmers in the community so that schoolchildren can have a balanced diet of locally-produced goodness. By simultaneously advancing education, nutrition, food security and local economic empowerment, HGSF helps sustain a cycle of community development.
Clara Bamusi is one of 1,000 smallholder farmers who has the potential to benefit from HGSF sales. She is a member of the Chibwelera Farmer Organisation (FO) which supplies food to Ching’ombe school in Mangochi district. Clara believes the balanced meals serve as motivation for students to come to school and stay there until they finish their education.
“Since HGSF began, Ruth is very interested in school,” says Clara of her daughter who is in Standard 1 at Ching’ombe. “I can tell she’s more determined than ever to succeed in her studies.”
The lessons on dietary diversity that Ruth receives do not end with the school day; she often brings her knew knowledge home to share with her siblings and parents.
“Ruth says to me, ‘Mama, why don’t you cook with banana or why don’t you add some tomatoes and onions?’. I have taken my daughter’s advice and now the whole family is eating more balanced meals,” explains Clara.
While Ruth grows stronger and smarter at school, Clara’s pockets grow deeper. Clara’s FO receives support through WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative. This enables her to get training in post-harvest and warehouse management as well as in skills such as leadership and business. These training sessions have helped her produce high-quality food to meet the demands of local commercial buyers and of Ching’ombe school. So far, she has supplied maize, soya, sweet potatoes and groundnuts to the school.
“The greatest benefit has been the reliable market,” says Clara. “With my earnings I bought double the fertilizer and hybrid seed, and because of these inputs I was able to grow and harvest 65 more bags of maize this year compared to last.”
Clara has already earned about US$ 200 from her sales to Ching’ombe school in 2014, and is confident her family will continue to benefit as Ruth shares more about healthy eating and as their standard of living improves thanks to her new skills and better sales.