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Farm to School: Local Harvests Help Keep Students in the Classroom

Published 03/03/2016 by Global Communities

Too many vulnerable children in the world fall asleep at night with an empty stomach.

Today, we’re celebrating International School Meals Day – a day that recognizes the important role that school meals play in promoting children’s development and fighting hunger.

In Tanzania, Project Concern International (PCI) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to combat hunger. Through USDA’s Food for Education (FFE) program, PCI is feeding students, improving their ability to learn and keeping them in the classroom.

Food insecurity and rising global population require higher and more sustained agricultural growth and communities who own their own solutions to local problems.

Through FFE, farmers and schools in Nyabehu Village, Guta Ward, Bunda District, Tanzania, are partnering to benefit the local economy and the nutrition and education of hundreds of children and their families.

Empty Bowls after School Feeding

Angelina Julia, a 53-year old mother of seven children and 11 grandchildren, and also smallholder farmer, works hard growing and selling maize.

The chairperson of a farmer group called Jikomboe, meaning “Self-liberation” in Swahili, Angelina helps lead a group of 23 other local smallholders.

Angelina Maize Field Tanzania

In April 2015, PCI helped link 16 farmer groups with FFE-supported schools from the same village. Along with the other 15 groups, Jikomboe received maize inputs and training on improved agricultural practices, such as proper application of manure. Each of Jikomboe’s 23 members used the inputs and prepared their own plots.

Dennis Makoye, the Guta Ward Agriculture Extension Officer, assisted the farmer group members and was involved in collecting the members’ harvest. Dennis and Angelina ensured that at least 20 percent of Jikomboe’s harvest went to a local school to support school-feeding activities.

One of Angelina’s grandchildren, a standard two student, studies at Nyabehu Primary School, a school supported by the FFE program. She actively ensures her earnings and harvest from the farmers’ group directly contribute to her grandchild’s education.

Angelina Tanzania

In October 2015, Nyabehu Primary School received 150 kilograms of maize, which was donated by the Jikomboe farmer group.

The donated maize is prepared with beans purchased by the school and this traditional meal, called “Makande,” is served to all pre-primary and primary students, teachers, cooks and guards. The makande meal is served once a week, while the FFE-provided bean and rice meals are served four times a week.

Nyabehu Primary School is very appreciative for the FFE program, which provides school meals, as well as engaging parents to farm and contribute towards the sustainability of school meals.

Preparing Makande

Along with ten smallholder farmers, Angelina joined an FFE-supported Women Empowered (WE) group in Guta Ward. Through the WE initiative, members are able to save money and take out loans from the group.

Many of the WE members are also farmers and they use loans to purchase farm inputs to expand their plots and increase harvests for selling, consumption and contributions. Profits from selling harvests are often leveraged to provide children’s school supplies, such as pens and notebooks.

All group members are determined to continue providing for not only their families, but also ensure school feedings for the local primary school children continue.

Farmers Plots of Land

Angelina helped lead Jikomboe through their first harvest and school contribution, and soon the group members will harvest for a second time. The farmers’ group has also already prepared plots for a third planting season and are waiting for the next rainy season before planting.

As pillars of strength for their families and communities, women like Angelina hold the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Programs like FFE demonstrate how we can create greater and more sustainable impact by engaging entire communities.