student food support project improves the quality of education

(AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK) – It is 1 p.m. local time at the primary school in Konioudou, a village in the rural commune of Kombissiri, about forty kilometers south of Ouagadougou. And it’s time for the mid-day break for the students. To the shade of the tall trees that stand in the yard, some are playing, teasing, laughing; a few others leaf through books and notebooks. But all are waiting for one thing: mealtime.

At the signal of the headmistress of the school, they line up, each at the entrance to his class. Inside, a canteen serves plastic dishes. Then the students enter the room, in small groups, to each take their ration. Today’s menu ? A millet porridge enriched with monkey bread, peanut powder and sugar. Next time it could be couscous, rice, beans, cowpeas and salad, or other meals made from local produce.

With its 600 pupils, the Konioudou school is one of the 70 establishments selected in three regions (Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-Sud and Sud-Ouest) to benefit from the pilot phase of the school meals project based on local products for a smart nutrition. Funded by Japan and administered by the African Development Bank, the $990,000 project bolsters government initiatives to provide students with at least one balanced meal a day.

Launched in 2020 for a period of two years, then extended by one year, the project helps schools set up fields and gardens, and provides them with agricultural, gardening and cooking equipment, as well as inputs. The production makes it possible to provide meals for the students for a few weeks. ” During the past season, more than 25 tons of agricultural products were harvested, despite poor rainfall, says Innocent Bamouni, project manager at the Ministry of National Education. At the garden level, production continues and 14 tons are expected ».

« Without this project, some of our children would not have eaten anything on this midday. », Says, with gratitude, the president of the parents’ association of Konioudou, Prosper Guigma.

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Lassané Compaoré: “Here, we have dishes that we don’t have at home. »

Student Lassané Compaoré appreciates: ” meals are good and clean. Here, we have dishes that we don’t have at home. And then, we are happy to eat together and afterwards, to stay on site to learn our lessons ».

The same satisfaction is shared in Kamsando, another village in the commune of Kombissiri. ” This project is really a godsend for ustestifies Mahamoudou Ouédraogo, director of the village school. When the student has eaten at noon, this has a positive effect on his performance in class. However, for lack of resources, many families do not prepare food at noon. They can only do this for two or three months, right after the harvest in September ».

According to Innocent Bamouni, the State allocates each year more than 18 billion CFA francs (about 27.31 million euros) to municipalities for the acquisition of food for school canteens. This amount has remained the same for several years, while the workforce has evolved. And with the security crisis rocking the country, many suppliers have not delivered food to schools this year as prices have soared. ” In the commune of Kombissiri, most establishments have not received their endowment, deplores Innocent Bamouni. Only the 15 schools covered by the project are able to serve meals to students, thanks to their agricultural and market gardening production ».

Beyond the possibility offered to the students to simply have something to eat, the project also aims to improve the nutritional quality of the meals. The high prevalence of malnutrition was one of the selection criteria for the three pilot regions.

During the first quarter of this year, 140 canteens (two per beneficiary school), as well as the 70 school principals, mothers, agricultural officers, community representatives and project focal points, took take part in training on the processing of local products and food hygiene in school canteens.

« To our return, there will be a big difference with what we used to do until now, because we learned to prepare a lot of things. We will be able to vary the menus of the students, with products from home. Students will have a wider choice “, explained a cook to the public daily Sidwaya. For her part, Mariam Coulibaly, an agro-food research engineer and main trainer, added that “ our local products are very rich; it is enough that the cooks are well equipped in the formulation of the meals, in order to be able to associate the proteins, the lipids, the carbohydrates, the mineral salts… so that the children are well nourished and productive ».

Back in their respective villages, the cooks invited the women to sessions to share what they had learned.

For its first year of implementation, the project has kept its promises in the beneficiary schools. Supported by teachers and students, parents plowed, sowed and harvested. ” When we are asked to bring wood to school (for cooking), we are happy because we know we are going to eat “, adds the little Lassané Compaoré. In short, everyone understood that the sustainability of the project’s achievements depends on the strong involvement of everyone in the promotion of the endogenous canteen.

The success of the pilot phase could depend on the extension of the experiment, which several schools are already requesting.

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