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Farmers feed from school feeding programme

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When World Food Programme commenced support to School Feeding Programme (SFP) in Malawi 1999, it never existed in the mind of James Chipande of Phalombe that the programme would mark a turnaround to his farming misfortunes.

The programme, which is aimed at reducing school dropouts particularly among girls and orphans, has turned out to be a money spinner for Chipande who is part of Chakalamba Irrigation Scheme.

The scheme supplies its produce to Nkhulambe Full Primary School’s school feeding programme targeting 1,971 pupils.

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The SFP started as a pilot in Dedza and it targeted 23,000 pupils in 24 schools in the district.

It was later scaled up to include Salima, Kasungu, Mulanje, Chiradzulu, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Thyolo, Phalombe, Zomba and Mangochi in between 2008 and 2011.

Chipande says an agreement was struck between Nkhulambe school, one of the beneficiary schools in 2013, that the scheme should be supplying it with food stuffs.

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Since then, Chipande had no problem with a market for his produce.

“Through the sales of our produce to the school, I have managed to build a sizable iron sheet-roofed house. I could not have afforded that before the scheme came.

“When we started in 2005, I had misgivings but as a group we realised good profits. I am able to pay fees for my children and afford to live a better life,” said Chipande of Ruwaniwa village in Traditional Authority Nkhulambe.

The scheme supplies foodstuffs like maize, vegetables, beans and onions to the school’s feeding programme.

Speaking during a media tour organised by Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) with funding from Christian Aid, Chipande said he also uses proceeds from his produce in procurement of inputs for his field.

Phalombe is one of the 15 districts that were affected by floods early this year.

It is also one of those classified as disaster prone.

That is, people like Chipande are exposed to all sorts of hazards such as heavy storms, droughts, dry spells, epidemics, fires, landslides and earthquakes –alongside health burdens.

This has called for programmes that take an integrated approach to increase people’s resilience to emerging shocks so that they are able to sustain and enhance their productive livelihoods as well as food and nutrition security.

Justine Namakhusa Joseni, Assis tant Coordinator for Nkhulambe Teacher Development Centre says since the school engaged Chakalamba Irrigation Scheme, there has been consistency in supplies of foodstuffs to the school which has ensured the smooth running of the feeding programme at the school.

“The farmers also do it for their own children and we always make sure that we have the supplies in time before the prices rise on the market,” he says.

Nkhulambe Primary School, according to Joseni, requires at least 4 tonnes of maize per term.

In Phalombe alone, there are five schools that are implementing the home-grown school feeding programme. This has created a market for other groups such as the Nkhulambe Cooperative and Nalingula Women’s Group who are also supplying them with what they produce.

Up to 800 million people around the world, most of them in rural areas, still do not have enough food to eat, according to Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (Ifad) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“This is why we are championing an approach that combines social protection with additional targeted investments in rural development, agriculture and urban areas that will chiefly benefit the poor,” says FAO director general José Graziano da Silva in a statement.

Osmond Chapotoloka, Phalombe District Agriculture Development Officer (Dado) says the social protection initiatives have shown some strides in the reduction of some of the livelihood shocks.

But he called for more complementary initiatives.

“There is need for other agriculture or related programmes for the social protection initiatives to bear more positive results,” he said.

Cisanet National Director Tamani Nkhono Mvula says Malawi needs to develop a strong institutional framework that will help to govern the provision of social protection programmes.

He argues that for Malawi to make strides, the country needs to review its agricultural policies and explore the linkages with social protection.

“There is need to have a clear link between agricultural, developmental policies and social protection policies so that there is no contradiction.

“People also need to understand that social protection only provides them a platform where they can launch into independence and not for them to depend on it forever. Malawi has a youthful population that must be made to work and not to always rely on handout,” he says.

As the world commemorates World Food Day under the theme ‘Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty’, FAO says reliable and regular social protection schemes can help the vulnerable to overcome financial constraints and manage risks that usually discourage them from pursuing higher returns.

When implemented on a large scale, says FAO, social protection systems can also contribute to an overall reduction of the poverty gap, empowering families and communities.

It says studies from a number of countries including Malawi and Zambia show that social protection initiatives programmes contribute substantially to increases in investments in agricultural inputs and tools, and assets, such as livestock.

“As a result household production increases, contributing to greater and more diverse food consumption,” says the United Nations organisation

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