In 2002/3, when Zambia suffered one of its worst droughts, the World Food Programme worked with the country's Ministry of Education to re-start school feeding. Initially, the programme reached only 10,000 school children in five districts. Just over a decade later, some 860,000 children in over 2,000 schools are now receiving school meals on a daily basis.
Samutela Ngololo (12) says that the food he eats at school gives him the strength to learn and walk home at the end of the day. It is because of the meals that he comes to school, he says. Every day, he and his 190 fellow pupils enjoy a hot meal at Namwala Community School in southern Zambia. The ingredients - maize grain, pulses and cooking oil - are provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Government.
"When I'm finished with my education, I'd like to be the manager of a company," says Samutela, the fourth in a family of eight children. He says his family is poor and that they struggle to put a meal on the table. That is why school meals make such a difference, says teacher Garry Nsonga. Enrolment and attendance rates go right up when school meals are served on a daily basis - without them, a lot of children just stop coming to school.
Since 2011, the Government of Zambia has contributed 50,000 metric tonnes of maize (worth more than US $10 million) to the country's Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme. The government also allocates about US$ 1 million a year to cover their contribution's transport costs.
"The benefits of the programme are multiple," says Zambia Country Director Simon Cammelbeeck. "They have to do with education, nutrition, and social protection - they even tie in with support to the agriculture sector. That's why the value of the Government's support to the programme cannot be overemphasized."
The school feeding programme, through its linkages to other programmes such as the Purchase for Progress and Milk-for-Schools, contributes to developments in the agriculture and dairy sectors. Through the HGSF programme, WFP and government continue to purchase food locally as often as possible in an effort to support government objectives on food security and reduced poverty. This concept also promotes and encourages farmers and community members to grow maize and pulses which will have a ready market.