By Tsitsi Matope
Lesotho is putting into practice an old saying: “it takes a village to raise a child”, as it refashions its national school feeding programme to become more inclusive of the local 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.
On 18 November 2014, government and various 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 free and nutritious school meals to children throughout the country. WFP played a critical role in the designing of the “home-grown” component of the national policy, which will facilitate stocking schools’ food supplies by buying largely from local farmers.
As the agricultural sector in Lesotho takes on more responsibility for feeding its 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.
[quote|“A home-grown school feeding programme will facilitate the access of farmers to a predictable local market and ultimately promote agricultural and rural development."]
However, with the “home-grown” component of the new National School Feeding Policy, WFP will work with the support of the government to procure a 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,” said 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 a year-round crop production to benefit school feeding.