A two-year School feeding project implemented by Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) which started in 2021 ended in March 2023 in the Butha Buthe district. The aim of the project was to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods of the schools and the communities. Through climate smart agricultural technologies; by rehabilitating school vegetable gardens, installation of roof water harvesting, Introduction of proper nutrition; Food preservation methods. WASH in schools and Child protection as crosscutting issues.
The project was focusing on the six schools and communities around the Ngoajane and Nqoe Community Councils. The six schools were ‘Moteng Community Primary School, ‘Moteng Roman Catholic Primary School, Khatibe Primary School, ‘Mantlobo Primary School, Jane RC Primary School and Rehauhetsoe Primary School.
It was revealed during the lessons learnt workshop that the following were achievements of the project;
- 310 Vulnerable adolescent girls were given dignity kits comprising sanitary pads, toothpaste, toothbrush, and cosmetics.
- Six Schools were trained on climate-smart agriculture and food preservation the results are already visible. The aim was to ensure that schools have a good nutritional status for the benefit of children.
- Schools and communities were provided with farming inputs which includes vegetable seeds and equipment (garden tools) to enable them to produce vegetables to benefit 1137 children with 565 males and 572 females
- The project also provided schools with fruits trees; Apple and Peach trees..
- Proper Nutrition goes with the hygiene: New energy-efficient stoves were introduced and built for six schools as well as providing the schools with new CIC pots (Old black heavy cooking pots).
- 100 school children; 45 males and 55 females, were provided with a food basket aimed at closing food gaps in the household. The basket was composed of Maize meal, beans, peas, milk, oil, salt, and sugar.
When expressing her appreciation, a Board Member of the ‘Moteng Community Primary, Mrs. Mamahlaku Moiketsi said the farming inputs that were provided has yielded good results because now the schools can feed the children.
She said the high absenteeism of girls was dramatically reduced because the girls were more confident to be with other children due to the hygiene kits they were given.
Lineo Linake, one of the students who received the dignity kits expressed her gratitude to LRCS saying it helped them to attend school more regularly without missing classes because of their periods.
On behalf of the six schools; Principal Ntane Mpai of Rehauhetsoe Primary school informed the Lesson Learned workshop that “it was difficult to get good results and attention from students because some of them came to school hungry that affected their performance.”
She said the project came at the right time when the school feeding scheme of the Government NMA encountered some challenges of providing schools with foods.
“Some students depend on the one meal they receive from school therefore, if they do not get food from the school it affects them physically and psychologically,” Mr. Mpai added.
She further stated that the schools also received highly clean and energy efficient stoves that enables the schools to save money on firewood and that they are clean
In addition, the workshop revealed that two hundred and eighty six (286) community members; 22 males and 264 females were provided with vegetable seeds; rape, kale, Florida broad leaves, carrots, spinach and beetroot, and butternut and peach and apple fruit trees.
Chief Jobile Ntlobo of Ha ‘Mantlobo in Ngoajane, articulated his gratefulness to the LCRS saying through this project they were able to promote people cooperation and unity in their villages which improved peace and stability. “We learned that through teamwork, the impossible become possible and that we can fight food insecurity by coming together in agriculture activities.” He stated. He further stated that children being sexually abused were identified and their cases are being dealt with Local Chief; Jobile Ntlobo of Ha ‘Mantlobo in Ngoajane revealed that through the school feeding project, men were hired in water constructions and this assisted in providing jobs for their families which result in reduction of crime in the villages.
When officially launching the workshop, the District Administrator (DA) of Butha-Buthe Mr T’sepa Chaba welcomed the participants and thanked LRCS for the School Feeding Project. He further emphasized the importance of the project and that he is eager for the project to continue. In conclusion the DA asked LRCS together with the stakeholders to find a way in which the project can sustain for more positive impact at schools and in the community of Butha Buthe and in other districts as well.
However, it was also revealed that the project experienced these challenges;
- The project was implemented during Covid-19, therefore, due to lock down regulations schools took a lot of breaks, and that delayed some developments in the schools.
- Relevant stakeholders were engaged in other projects such as RCCE for Covid 19 prevention and response.
- Due to heavy rains which above normal in 2021/2022 resulted in the increased mortalityrate of peach trees putting their survival rate at 45%, while apple trees were at 95% survival rate. Similar situation was experienced in the growth of vegetables due to waterlogging.
The Project Manager Mr. Mokholoane Sefatsana said “The project was implemented during Covid-19 lockdowns; therefore, most of the schools were closed leaving the gardens and tree without anyone take care of them.
He urged the community to continue taking care of the trees and gardens so they can continue to benefit from them.
When asked if the project met its goal and objectives, Mr Sefatsana Mokholoane ;“Looking at the project achievements and listening to beneficiaries’ opinions regarding the project impact in their lives, I am confident to say this project is successful and it responded to the needs of the local community. “
He continued saying; through community engagement and accountability the project managed to reach the set targets because every party played their role; being the parents, guardians, Teachers, school governing bodies, Local Authorities, as well as the children. Therefore, this guarantees the sustainability of the project.
The project mainstreamed Child Protection, PSEA, PGI and CEA which formed part of the safeguarding to the welfare of the child. To date, proper channels of referral are in place, Community Child protection teams (CCPT), District Child Protection Teams is fully functioning, LRCS Child Protection policy has been finalized. All these are making the success of the School Feeding Project.
The stakeholders in the project were; Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Forestry, Disaster Management Authority, Lesotho Mounted Police Services and Rural Water Supply.
School Feeding Project was supported by the Australian Red Cross and technical assistance from IFRC to the tune of M6 Million. The School Feeding project started in 2021 and ended in March 2023.