By Chimezie Godfrey
As schools reopen in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) has promised to upscale the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP).
The Ministry will undertake this important task with technical support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Sadiya Farouq disclosed that this was part of decisions made from a joint assessment conducted in the first quarter of 2021 to identify ways of improving, scaling-up and sustaining the NHGSFP.
She said,”As schools reopen in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) with technical support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announces, it will be taking to the next level, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), launched by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2016. This decision results from a joint assessment conducted in the first quarter of 2021 to identify ways of improving, scaling-up and sustaining the NHGSFP.
“The NHGSFP remains an important intervention of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Through it hunger, malnutrition, poverty, education can all be addressed. It is an investment that is fully funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria because of its sheer potential as a development driver.
“We at the FMHADMSD are here to ensure that this programme is strengthened and sustained so that it can continue to support the needs of the children, families, women and communities it targets. The technical support from the World Food Programme is therefore timely, relevant and well appreciated.”
The Minister noted that the Home Grown School Feeding initiatives promote nutrition education and better eating habits and encourage the diversification of production with a special emphasis on local crops.
According to her, WFP is backing the next stage with a significant transfer of ICT equipment. This includes tablets with access to the PLUS Schools Menus – a free tool to help state Nutrition Officers design nutritious menus for schools.
“The hardware will not only support the Ministry’s efforts to digitalize its monitoring and evaluation system, but also enable the national roll out of the PLUS School Menu Tool developed by WFP to standardize cost-effective menu development.
“By 2021, this breakthrough initiative serves school meals to over 9 million students in 53,000 public primary schools, making it one of the largest school feeding programmes in Africa. It has also led to a significant increase in school enrollment across the country.
“Moreover, the programme has provided a much-needed boost to local economies by buying the products of smallholder farmers and providing jobs to more than 107,000 cooks from low-income families.
“Schools provide local farmers with a predictable outlet for their products, leading to a stable income, more investments and higher productivity. The children enjoy healthy, diversified food; this makes it more likely that they will stay in school, perform better, and improve their adult job prospects,” she explained.
The Minister further disclosed that in line with one of the key pillars for sustaining the NHGSFP, several partnerships have been realised across various relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Government, which have truly strengthened the collaboration and cooperation for a more effective service delivery.
Key partners include the National Youth Service Corp, Ministries of Agriculture, of Education, Information, Trade and Industry, Water Resources amongst others.
WFP Country Director, Ronald Sibanda pointed out that providing healthy school meal is one of the best ways of fighting hunger and preventing malnutrition.
“One of the best ways of fighting hunger and preventing malnutrition among children is to provide them with a healthy school meal.
“Nigeria is a good example of where the Government has taken the lead from day one and invested resources and funding into the design and implementation of its National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme.
“This is a great initiative and WFP is very pleased to provide technical support for the Government of Nigeria,” he stated.
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development continues to successfully implement the Nigerian Government’s Social Investment Programme where over thirty million Nigerians have benefited and continue to benefit directly and indirectly from different clusters of the programme making it the largest social protection programme ever carried out in Nigeria and one of the biggest in Africa.
Many who were hitherto poor have been lifted out of poverty through the Conditional Cash Transfers they now own small businesses thus improving their quality of life significantly.
Children in primary 1-3 in government schools are feed one nutritious meal daily, this has improved school enrolment and helps in reducing the number of out of school children.
The program continues to support the work of cooks-caterers of which 99% are women, thus driving social and financial inclusion.
The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. They are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.