Fresh yogurt to fight hunger at school
What if students could eat yogurt at mid-day breakfast every day? In the Sahel, one of the poorest areas of Burkina Faso, that idea has become one of the World Food Programme’s flagship initiatives. The organisation is helping to set up a completely new dairy supply chain, which links small-scale cattle-breeders and local dairy producers with school canteens. The programme draws from the local context and has many benefits. The yogurt provides children with much-needed vitamins and minerals, ensuring they are able to concentrate and learn. At the same time, the local milk processing units owned by women’s associations gain market access, encouraging the development of the dairy sector upon which 40% of the population relies. We have been supporting the World Food Programme (WFP) since the inception of the initiative and are now enabling the organisation to consolidate and expand it while ensuring that the model can be replicated by the government in other parts of the country.
The Sahel is one of the poorest and most food-insecure regions of Burkina Faso, with a 33% chronic malnutrition rate. School enrolment in the region is also very low (51.9% compared to a national average of 83.7%) and early marriages are a major cause of dropouts among young girls.
To address these challenges, the World Food Programme (WFP) has set up school canteens that help reduce malnutrition and improve enrolment, attendance and retention by providing children with nutritious food. Proper nutrition is vital to ensuring students are able to concentrate and learn, and is a powerful incentive for families to send children to school and keep them there. Linking school meals with small-scale farmers’ production, the WFP home-grown school feeding programmes boost local agriculture and transform food assistance into a sustainable investment for the whole community.
From May 2015, WFP piloted the introduction of locally-produced yogurt as part of the school meals provided in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region.
Connecting small-scale breeders and female yogurt producers with the schools’ demand, the “Milk initiative” has gradually been rolled out to some 5,300 students at 28 primary schools. The model’s success relies on its ability to value local knowledge and establish a sustainable value chain that links women working at milk processing plants with cattle-breeders, small-scale fodder producers, milk collectors, yogurt distributors and schools.
This ecosystem not only boosts local economies, but also promotes gender equality as it gives women the tools and resources to become successful dairy entrepreneurs in their communities.
We are supporting WFP to consolidate the Dori model and expand it to the provinces of Seno and Soum. The activities specifically include:
- Technical support and training throughout the milk value chain (milk processors and collectors).
- Strategic and operational alignment with national ministries and local municipalities in the Sahel region to support the development of a comprehensive national framework and prepare the take-over of the initiative.
- Two women-owned milk processing units are up and running. Their production meets quality standards and the units are competitive on the market. The women increase their income and their access to credit and the market, and benefit from better social status.
- A total of 12,500 schoolchildren at 71 schools in Dori and Djibo receive locally-produced yogurt on a daily basis. Attendance rates in the schools where yogurt is provided increase to reach 85%.
- A high-quality milk value chain is established, including milk collectors, livestock breeders and small-scale farmers.
The programme is being implemented under the leadership of the Ministry of National Education and Literacy, with the involvement of other relevant departments (Health, Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing) to prepare the Government to take it over, directing a nationally owned, funded and managed home-grown school meals programme.
WFP’s efforts to link school feeding and local agricultural and milk production address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity by helping farmers and smallholder cattle breeders access markets, boost their incomes and improve their livelihoods. School feeding programmes are multi-sectoral in nature. WFP works with other United Nation agencies (including UNDP, FAO, UNFPA and IFAD) to ensure effective coordination, sustainability and efficiency.