In November I was doing fieldwork to assess the the Ghana School Feeding Programme in the Northern and Upper East regions. I want to share my findings, however I’m honestly just too lazy to write all about it again. So, here is a portion of the essay I submitted on the topic.
To demonstrate how the Home Grown School Programme (HGSP) plays out nationally, the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) will serve as an example on a narrower scale. It began in September 2005 with support from the Dutch Government, NEPAD, WFP, World Vision International (WVI) and a handful of other external donors. Similar to the HGSFP, the GSFP has three key objectives. Firstly, it hopes to reduce hunger and malnutrition in all primary school students through the provision of one hot, nutritious meal a day. Secondly, it will use these meals as an incentive for school enrollment, attendance and retention in order to promote national primary education. And thirdly, it plans to purchase all foodstuffs locally to enhance economic productivity of small-holder farmers (SEND, 10). It is through these goals that the aim of boosting the child’s attention span in the classroom through proper nutrition could be met, while also encouraging the local small holder farming economy to prosper. Similarly, food would be used to improve school attendance, as well as the cognitive learning in each pupil by increasing the consumption of food with sound nutritional value (Sulemana, M., et al., 423).
Within Ghana, there is a general issue of school enrollment in the upper regions, with the Northern region having the lowest school enrollment rate in the entire country (Sulemana, M., et al., 423). All children old enough to attend school, are granted access to free basic education as of 1995 through the Free Compulsory Basic Education (F’CUBE) policy. However, despite this many children are not enrolled in school due to a number of socioeconomic factors (Government of Ghana, Web). When in poverty, having a child attain education may not hold as much value to parents as having them hawk or sell in the marketplace to generate income. Perhaps the cost of school materials and a uniform is too much for them to bare, or maybe the indirect cost such as the loss of child labour is too great for them. With these factors considered, food works as an incentive to get families to send their children to school, as it relieves the burden for the parents to provide them with lunch themselves. It is also essential to educate the family on the cycle of poverty, and that by allowing their children to go to school they will have a greater chance of being better off in the future.
It is evident that the effects of this programme have been helping to relieve child hunger across the country since its inception. Only two years after it’s implementation 476,083 school students benefited from the programme across Ghana, and by the end of 2010 it helped provide for over 1.4 million children beneficiaries (Sulemana, M., et al., 426 & Quayea, W., et al., 430). A target to cover 2.5 million student beneficiaries by the end of 2015 was set as a goal, but the real statistics have yet to be published (Government of Ghana, Web). With school enrollment significantly rising since the introduction of GSFP, it is clear the programme is truly working towards getting more children in primary schools. Yet there have been reported cases where people shift schools to attend one which hosts the GSFP; so while enrollment rates may be increasing in a particular beneficiary school, it may not accurately reflect overall attendance of the entire country or region (Quayea, W., et al., 436).
However, while school enrollment may be increasing, there are some significant challenges within the GSFP which should be noted. Despite being further accredited by external research, much of the information on this matter was discovered during field work conducted through a mini-placement with the IDST 3790 course. We experimented with a number of semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and a community score card with the use of Participatory Learning Approaches (PLA) in order to gather research. Direct observation was key to obtaining information which may not have been appropriate to ask without offending anyone or receiving biased answers. We met with the District Implementation Committee (DIC) who oversees the programme at all schools from the district level, which is meant to ensure monitoring with the help of the School Implementation Committee (SIC) (Government of Ghana, Web). Once at the school we met with most of the SIC and conducted a Semi-Structured Interview with a few of the members. Later, a Community Score Card was done with twelve student beneficiaries to receive their perspective on the matter. Through the use of these tools, we were able to highlight some of the main casual factors limiting the optimal success of the programme.
Our findings in the field revealed two key factors which are hampering the potential of the GSFP. These include proper monitoring and evaluation, as well as the timely release of funds to the caterers. The DIC admitted to the challenge of funds reaching the caterers on time, although it is unclear why the lack of funding is an issue when there is a handful of external donors as partners to this programme. Once speaking with a caterer she claimed that she had not been paid for the last two terms, and has been left to pre finance the entire past school year. Because she has been not receiving adequate funding, she has been unable to purchase foodstuffs locally –failing to comply with one of the major aims of the programme (Sulemana, M., et al., 427-428). Similarly, the 80 Pesewas (300P = $1CAD) allocated per child is not enough to provide a diversified and nutritionally balanced menu. The children have therefore not received any fruits, egg or meats because of their expensive monetary value. It can then be said the GSFP is failing to comply with 2 of its objectives: provision of nutritionally exceptional food, as well as purchasing foodstuffs locally.
Yet, it is possible to mitigate these issues which have manifested in the implantation of the GSFP through a number of potential remedies. Because of the lack of monitoring done by both the DIC and the SIC, there is no clear communication channel of evaluation. Perhaps if regularly scheduled meetings were adhered too, the SIC could hold the DIC accountable to search for the provision of funds to the caterer. It is very clear that success of this programme crucially relies on the timely release of funds to the caterers as they are the ones in charge of providing the food, as well as purchasing it locally. Seeing as it was hoped that the GSFP would boost the local agric economy through the balance of supply-demand linkages, the timeliness of funding must be addressed in order to remedy the failure of this goal (Quayea, W., et al., 441).
Furthermore, it would also be important to raise the issue of having such a wide variety of external donors. Perhaps if the Government of Ghana took full responsibility for the costs of this programme it would be easier to trace accountability. If so many donors are available, it may become easier to shift the blame to another party. For this reason, I believe the Government should be the exclusive national duty bearer for this programme; so if the funds are not being distributed, the National Secretariat can be directly held accountable. With this in mind, the funds distributed are simply not adequate to provide for meals of sufficient nutritional value. The government must prioritize the allocation of funds in order to grant the programme better funding to allow for a higher pay to the caterers.
In conclusion, food insecurity is a serious matter which the United Nations has been exhausting efforts to address. Through the Millennium Development Goals, they helped influence national policies which would help to reduce poverty and hunger, as well as increase primary education. The Ghana School Feeding Programme, as an offset of the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, has certainly attempted to achieve the goals laid out by the overarching policy. It is evident that it is encouraging the primary school children of Ghana to enroll, attend and retain a school education through the incentive of food provision. However, the programme fails to meet the goals of providing nutritionally balanced meals and the purchase of locally grown foodstuffs. These issues may be addressed through adequate funding dispersed in a timely manner. The Ghana School Feeding Programme is working towards food sovereignty for the children throughout the country, by assuring they are not left hungry. The next steps to bettering this policy may include a diversification of foodstuffs provided, because to achieve national food sovereignty there must not be a lack of choice in the food one consumes.
FAO (2013) The State of Food and Agriculture: Food Systems for Better Nutrition. Pg 1-6.
Government of Ghana. Ghana School Feeding Programme. Retrieved from: http://www.schoolfeeding.gov.gh/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=130&Itemid=139
Sulemana, M., et al. (2013). The Challenges and Prospects of the School Feeding Programme in Northern Ghana in Development in Practice. Vol. 23, No. 3, 422–432 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09614524.2013.781127
Pinstrup-Andersen, P. (2009) Food security: definition and measurement in Food Sec. Vol. 1, 5-7 DOI: 10.1007/s12571-008-0002-y
Quayea, W., et al. (2010). Understanding the concept of food sovereignty using the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) in International Review of Sociology. Vol. 20, No. 3, 427- 444 DOI: 10.1080/03906701.2010.511895
United Nations. (2015) Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20PC%20final.pdf
SEND Ghana (2008). Whose Decision Counts. A Monitoring Report on the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP).