Home grown school feeding in Ethiopia and Liberia during the COVID-19 pandemic

Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) constitutes a school feeding model that is designed to provide children in schools with safe, diverse and nutritious food, sourced locally from smallholders. ZOA has extensive experience with the approach and currently has ongoing programs in both Ethiopia and Liberia. Both programs focus on the local market. As a result, besides feeding children in school the development of the local market is strengthened. But how to feed children when schools are closed as a result of the pandemic? And what is the long-term plan?

During the 2019/20 academic year ZOA was feeding children 5,242 students in 21 primary schools in Margibi County, Liberia. The meals consist of cassava products, notably gari, as the core ingredient. Gari is the powdery food flour that originates from the cassava plant. This use of cassava from Liberia is quite unique: other partners import especially rice on large scales. But Liberia is not the only ZOA-country that has a HGSF-programme. Since 2019, ZOA Ethiopia has piloted the HGSM approach in the Gambella region. During the 2020 academic year, ZOA Ethiopia was feeding 8,109 students in 7 public primary and secondary schools. The daily meal on these schools comprises of maize, red kidney beans, vegetable oil, and iodized salt; served as boiled maize and beans.

Feeding in times of COVID-19

In Liberia, schools closed in March 2019. ZOA, as a result, shifted to Take-Home Rations. Children and their parents were supported with monthly rations of food that they could prepare at home. In Ethiopia, ZOA’s team took the same approach. Schools in Ethiopia equally closed in March 2019. Although COVID-19 is still present, Liberia will be re-opening the schools in December 2020. ZOA supports this and has provided schools with regular food to be cooked daily at the schools. In Ethiopia, school re-opening started in November 2020. The government has also endorsed COVID-19 prevention directives. Therefore, the modality of school feeding has continued as take-home food ration.

Feeding in schools is a major pull-factor. Although health measures need to be followed carefully, re-establishing the normal school routine is key. Due to several factors, e.g. access to online/remote options, continuing a smooth learning process is hard for school children in the schools where ZOA Ethiopia and ZOA Liberia operate. The school feeding programme is expected to mitigate huge backlogs in learning.

Preliminary results of the programmes

The home-grown school meals (HGSM) approach is a pilot and shows promising results. ZOA cooperates with local and central governments; e.g. the School Feeding Unit of the Ministry of Education (Liberia) and the Regional Education Office (Ethiopia). By ensuring a home-grown approach, besides resulting in children receiving nutritious meals, the local market is strengthened. Key findings of the pilot include:

  • Community participation plays a crucial role and contributes to the effective implementation of the program (e.g. through school committees)
  • Throughout the implementation of the HGSM program, student enrolment increases
  • Daily school feeding keeps children at schools, especially during the lean/dry season, and reduces drop-outs.

Supported by many partners

This pilot would not have been possible without our loyal donors and partners:

  • Vreugdenhil Dairy Foods
  • Hoogwegt Foundation
  • Turing Foundation
  • European Union
  • Sint Antonius Stichting (SAS)

For more information, check the Briefing note Home Grown School Meals are a viable option for Liberia.. And click here to read more about the programme in Liberia or Ethiopia.