By Chileshe Chilambwe in Zambia

Zambia will invest more funds to scale up the national Homegrown School Feeding programme, in view of a huge influx of children coming to school. This was after President Hakainde Hachilema declared free education last year.

According to the Minister of Education in Zambia, Mr. Douglas Munsaka Syakalima, the government is expecting to double the number of children receiving School Meals from the current 2 million to 4 million by 2026. He explained these calls for “homegrown thinking” to be able to sustainably scale up the national programme. The government is innovating the programme to include education on nutrition, promoting school nutrition gardens as well as introducing tree planting projects to strengthen climate action in schools.

Some learners at Gwembe Primary School in southern Zambia delight in their nutritious and delicious meals together, fostering not just nourishment but also a sense of community and shared moments. Photo: WFP/Nkole Mwape

“We would like the children, when they get home after school, to teach their parents what they are learning! But importantly, we would also like them to profoundly understand the importance of growing food for themselves, to feed their communities and advance food security efforts in the country.” Minister Syakalima said as schools teach the children to grow food, they are also imparting skills on the risks affecting food production the world over. “One such risk is the effects of climate change on agricultural production, particularly rain-fed agriculture, if we look at the context in Southern and East Africa region.

“To develop knowledge on how they can contribute towards reversing the effects of climate change, we are teaching them how to plant trees, including fruit trees, which will again provide more nutritious food in schools and promote projects such as bee keeping. We are starting early to plant and nurture the culture of growing trees among children for their long-term contribution in the fight to mitigate effects of climate change.” With about 10 million children in Zambian schools, the aim is to support each child to plant a tree they will look after, said Mr. Syakalima. Efforts by the Government of Zambia and partners, to expand and improve the quality of the country’s Home-grown School Feeding programme is generating multiple benefits to the children, their families, local communities, the country, and the whole region.
Meal time! some learners at Gwembe Primary School receive their lunch meal.

Meal time! some learners at Gwembe Primary School receive their lunch meal. Photo: WFP/ Nkole Mwape

At the global level, tree planting programmes remain critical as one strategy to combat climate change. Trees essentially act as carbon sinks contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but locally they have a powerful effect on mitigating rising temperatures, preserving the water table, and hosting biodiversity. It is however not enough to increase the supply of trees if demand will force people to cut them down again for cooking. This is why introducing efficient cooking solutions to reduce the amount of firewood used by schools and local communities or switching to clean cooking altogether is crucial.

Schools, acting as innovation hubs can showcase the benefits of clean cooking to families, inducing transformational change in the community. School-based climate action initiatives can also promote climate friendly agricultural practices, such as adopting climate resilient seed varieties and powering labour’s mechanization with renewables, to the local farmers that provide food to schools.