Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A contribution from the European Union to Madagascar's school meals programme enables the World Food Programme to provide daily school meals in primary schools in the southern part of the island.
In the southern village of Ranomainty, the temperature can easily hit 40 degrees during summer time. Cactus and other spiny plants grow on the white sand. Ranomainty is located in one of Madagascar's poorest regions. Households have low food consumption and limited income. They rely on wild fruits or tubers for their survival. High levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are aggravated by erratic weather conditions. School attendance is low as parents prefer their children to tend the cattle or do housework rather than study. Salome lives in Ranomainty and attends the local primary school which recently joined the government-supported school meals programme. The whole community helped to build the kitchen, dining hall and a warehouse for storing the food.
Manioc and cactus Salome's parents are farmers. But irregular rainfall often leads to crop failure. During the lean season, the family eat manioc twice a day or pick cactus fruit for food. "I feel healthier now that we have school meals," says Salome. "I work better and would like to be a ramose later on". Ramose, meaning "mister" in Malagasy, is the local name given to teachers. School meals help improve children's access to education as well as giving their parents more time to earn money or look for work.
Daily hot meals "Farmers here harvest very little because of the erratic rainfall," Ranomainty school head cook Zana Célestine explains. "When there's not enough food for the family to eat, parents don't make education a priority. This is where the school meals make a difference." Thanks to a contribution from the European Union, WFP is able to provide daily hot meals to 219,000 pupils, cooks and teachers in primary schools in the south of the island. The programme is designed to increase attendance and enrollment as well as improve performance in the classroom.