The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise (TIDE) project achieved significant mile stone as 200,000 school children are now drinking milk solely funded through parents’ contributions. The programmes created systemic change as it has been adopted at the national level by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Sports and will continue to expand.
In Uganda 8 million children attend primary school and two thirds of them start their school day on an empty stomach. Often children leave home very early in the morning without having breakfast and study all day on empty stomachs. This leads to low concentration levels in class and absenteeism, particularly during the afternoon when children go outside to look for fruit to eat.
For the last two and half years, SNV's TIDE project has been working with stakeholders to change this situation and convince parents to provide milk for their children through its flagship school milk programme. Despite significant difficulties to involve parents, SNV's dairy project has achieved a milestone as 200,000 school children are now drinking milk solely funded through parents’ contributions.
This achievement started with the launch of the TIDE project in the cattle corridor districts of South Western Uganda (Kiruhura, Mbarara, Sheema, Isingiro, Bushenyi, Ntungamo and Lyantonde). Having witnessed high malnutrition rates in these districts (stunting rates are 42%) but also a high availability of milk in the region, SNV launched the school milk programme as part of the project. The aim of the programme was to improve the nutrition status of children in primary school through the promotion of milk consumption in schools.
The school milk programme was officially launched in August 2016. SNV’s initial goal was to get parents to contribute in providing milk for at least 5,000 children while in school. Soon this initiative became a national pilot, as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Sports partnered with SNV to implement the national school feeding guidelines under SNV's school milk programme. By the end of 2016, parents provided milk for 35,000 children in 77 schools. The programme has now been embraced by parents in 627 schools in the 7 target districts with 200,000 children (68%) consuming milk while at school. It is remarkable to note that the programme is championed by parents who are contributing an average of 20,000 UGX per term to enable their children to consume milk mixed with porridge.
“We want to thank SNV for leading the way towards parent-led school feeding, a path that the rest of us will follow in order to achieve good education. SNV’s school milk project in South Western Uganda is one of the greatest models of school feeding and nutrition because it puts parents at the centre of the intervention, making it more sustainable in the long run” says Mulindwa Ismael, Ministry of Education and Sports, during his keynote speech at the opening of the regional learning forum on school milk in Mbarara.
His remarks were reiterated by technical and political district representatives of the government, as well as the Deputy Ambassador of the Dutch Embassy in Kampala (EKN) who pledged to support Government’s efforts to develop the Ugandan agricultural sector. “The reason why EKN is involved in the school milk project is to help dairy farmers to improve their productivity and unlock their potential, and ultimately improve the entire dairy value chain. Increased productivity and farming is about business and improving household nutrition,” says Joris van Bommel - Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Cooperation of the Dutch Embassy in Kampala.
The school milk programme engages both public and private sector to promote milk consumption as part of the daily school meals. Parents are sensitised about the benefits of the programme and encouraged to contribute to the purchase of milk that will be consumed by their children during break time. It is the parents' responsibility to mobilise funds to buy milk and other items such as firewood to boil the milk. With a 50% subsidy, the TIDE project supported the schools for purchasing improved cooking stoves and saucepans, and installing water filters so that children could drink clean water at school.
SNV is now working with Yoba for life to introduce pro-biotic yoghurt in nursery schools across the 7 districts. The yoghurt made with a probiotic starter culture (naturally occurring bacteria present to help the body fight bacteria) is particularly beneficial for young children as it helps increase their immunity. Since March 2018, this activity has been embraced by parents in 59 nursery schools with 6,000 children drinking yoghurt twice a week. The yoghurt is supplied by women's groups who learned how to make probiotic yoghurt while each parent contributes with 12,000 UGX per term to purchase 125ml of yoghurt twice a week for their children.
Even though the programme has been successfully embraced by parents, it has not yet achieved 100% school feeding in the schools. On average, still 30% of the children in the schools do not have parents providing school meals. The TIDE project manager has urged stakeholders to continue the discussion so that school feeding becomes a community concern and solutions can be developed to support the remaining parents not yet on board in the programme.
By Dorah Egunyu, Communications Officer - SNV Uganda.