....as stakeholders show support for Home-Grown School Feeding
By Tsitsi Matope
Lesotho is putting into practice the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” as it refashions its national school feeding programme to include and promote the country's agricultural sector. Lesotho recognizes it will take a community to feed a child and to also create a sustainable, home-grown feeding programme that benefits both children and smallholder farmers.
In November 2014, government and other parties endorsed Lesotho’s National School Feeding Policy. The policy was formulated by the Ministry of Education and Training with support from WFP and outlines how relevant sectors will cooperate to provide healthy, free school meals to children throughout the country. WFP played a critical role in the design of the home-grown component of the national policy which encourages food stocks for schools to be purchased largely from local farmers.
As the agricultural sector in Lesotho takes on more responsibility for feeding children, the home-grown concept shows exciting potential to benefit local communities and develop the country’s rural economy.
Currently, school feeding in Lesotho is divided between WFP (covering 200,000 pupils) and the government (which caters for another 200,000). Food for Lesotho’s 400,000 school-going children is imported and bought from local sources.
With the home-grown component of the new National School Feeding Policy, WFP will work with the support of the government to procure the bulk of its food for the programme from local farmers. The aim is to help smallholder farmers increase their production levels and revenue, and also diversify their operations into food processing. Through a share-crop initiative that complements the National School Feeding Policy, the government is partnering with smallholder farmers to share 50 percent of all costs of food production, including land preparation and inputs such as seeds and fertilizer. The farmers and government will share the produce, which will be allocated to various programmes, including school feeding.
“A home-grown school feeding programme will facilitate the access of farmers to a predictable local market and ultimately promote agricultural and rural development,” says Lethusang Hanyane, the Deputy Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
With WFP, the government and other stakeholders working together through a variety of creative and collaborative approaches, Lesotho is making great strides towards year-round crop production that really benefits school feeding.