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By the end of 2018, with the number of new States in the country joining the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, it is set to become the largest school-feeding programme in Africa, says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
He stated this in Tunisia, where he delivered a keynote address at the closing ceremony of the 20th Annual Global Child Nutrition Forum held at Four Seasons hotel in Tunis, stating that the programme “has been by all accounts, a remarkable success.”
Speaking on the philosophy underlying the Programme, Prof Osinbajo told the 353 delegates from 9 countries, which include experts in the nutrition industry, United Nations officials from World Food Programme, Global Child Nutrition Fund, the World Bank and stakeholders that “Nigeria took the decision to embark on a school feeding programme as an important part of our human capital development agenda, by tackling the broader issues of eradication of poverty, food and nutrition security, and increasing school enrollment.”
He added, “it is becoming clearer that the 21st Century will be defined by knowledge and skills. The nations that are best able to present the most knowledgeable and most skilful citizens will prevail in commerce, in science and technology and of course, will enjoy the greatest prosperity and the longevity to enjoy the prosperity. Nations that do not invest enough to produce the required level of talent and skills will be left behind. A farther distance than ever before in the history of mankind.”
Emphasizing on the importance of the school-feeding programme, he posited that “For developing countries such as ours and of course many African countries, by far the greatest challenge for us in the next three decades is that of effective investment in the health and education of our population. Nutrition is key to both, to enable children usefully participate, learn and develop mentally and physically to be able to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment.”
“By 2035, Africa will have 1.2billion people. Over 50% of that number will be young persons under the age of 25. Today, 60 per cent of the unemployed in Africa are young people”, he observed.
Expatiating on the scope and cost of the Programme, Prof. Osinbajo said “at a cost of $0.19 per child per day, we are able to provide a balanced meal for every one of the children. 9,300,892 million pupils in 49,837 public primary schools in 26 states across Nigeria benefit daily.”
According to him, “at current numbers, the programme costs $1,767,169.48 per day and over $183million has been invested so far in the programme. The programme employs 95,422 cooks, and over 100,000 smallholder farmers linked to the programme, supplying locally sourced ingredients. This translates to 594 cattle, 138,000 chickens, 6.8 million eggs, 83 metric tons of fish that are procured, prepared, and distributed each week. As you can imagine, the quantity of starch and vegetables required for this program on a weekly basis is equally impressive”.
The Vice President highlighted the physical and health benefits to children currently being impacted, he stated that “energy and nutrients with established links to cognition- carbohydrates, protein, fat, iron and iodine as well as minerals with public health importance, are targeted by the NHGSF”, adding that “the program aims to provide 50% of the recommended nutrient intake targets for protein and prioritized micronutrients (iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, folate and vitamin C and 30% of energy because of the high burden of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria.”
Other benefits achieved under the programme include a ready market and a sustainable income for our farmers, as well as improved livelihoods for cooks with access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. “Financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity”.
“Moreover, with the capturing of their biometrics and the opening of bank accounts as a prerequisite to their participation in the programme, we are ramping up on our country’s needs for identification, planning and social inclusion efficiencies in Nigeria.”
He told the audience that the success of the programme in a short time is due to factors such as unequivocal political will, transparency and accountability, good value for all participants in the value chain, multi-sectoral coordination and strategic partnership with international donors such as Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and Partnership For Child Development, Imperial College.
Prof Osinbajo earlier commended the Global Child Nutrition Forum and World Food Programme, for providing such an excellent opportunity for the global school feeding community to come together to share ideas, learn from and inspire each other.
Present at the occasion were Hatem Ben Salem, Minister of Education, Republic of Tunisia; Arlene Mitchell, Executive Director, Global Child Nutrition Fund; Don Burdy, Specialist at World Food Programme/World Bank; Daniel Balaban, Director of Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brazil and other regional representatives of WEF and GCNF, international donors as well as other participants.