By Chijioke Okoronkwo
The Federal Government says that Cross River State has benefited immensely from the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP).
Justice Bibiye, Communications Manager, National Social Investment Office (NSIO), in a statement on Monday in Abuja, said the multiplier effect of the social intervention programmes and the potential for creating wealth could best be imagined.
Bibiye said the NHGSFP successfully commenced implementation since November 2017 in Cross River with 362,870 pupils being fed by 3,706 cooks in 1,430 public primary schools across the state.
He said the NSIO’s attention had been drawn to the views expressed by the Prof. Ben Ayade in which he decried what he considered the dearth of presidential and Federal Government interventions in Cross Rivers.
Bibiye said that Ayade, particularly mentioned the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme(NHGSFP), claiming that his state was not getting the desired push from the centre to leverage on the commercial opportunities of the programme.
He said that such assertion by a governor, whose state was benefiting immensely from the Federal Government’s Social Safety Net Initiatives, was rather unfortunate, unfair and perhaps based on insufficient knowledge of the impact of the programme.
“NHGSFP is a key component of the SIPs launched in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The main objective of the programme is to provide one nutritious, balanced meal each school day to pupils in classes 1 to 3 in public primary schools across Nigeria.
“In addition to improving nutrition, the programme also increase enrolment rates by mopping up the huge numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
“The NHGSFP also develops an agricultural value chain by creating jobs for the cooks and a sustainable income for small holder farmers, thereby engendering a ripple effect in the rural economy.
“The NHGSFP successfully commenced implementation since November 2017 in Cross River State with 362,870 pupils being fed by 3,706 cooks in 1,430 public primary schools across the state.
“The enrolment of children in the state has increased significantly, while the cooks in the communities have been empowered by direct payments of monies into their accounts, for the purpose of feeding.
“Indeed, since inception, the programme has continued to boost the health of the children, who have become more diligent in class, as a consequence of the nutritious meals availed them in school.
“The children’s menu comprises a carefully designed balanced and nutritious diet, consisting of locally available and affordable food components such as eggs, bread, chicken, fruits and ‘tom brown’, a meal made from groundnut, soybean, maize and millet.
“Indeed, when the programme commenced, the poultry required by the cooks in Cross Rivers State was being sourced from neighbouring States, but over time, the state itself began providing the poultry requirements, as the need for developing the sector quickly became evident.’’
Bibiye said that the menu components continued to be sourced and supplied from the local communities in line with the policy direction of the NHGSFP, which aimed at supporting small local farmers by providing a sustainable income and ready market for them.
He said that in monetary terms, since the commencement of NHGSFP in Cross River, over N2 billion Naira had fuelled the rural economy of the state, with the local farmers and cooks, as well as others that were part of the ever-increasing value chain.
“Undoubtedly, the ultimate beneficiary of the school feeding programme is Cross Rivers State.
“Its children’s improved learning outcomes is becoming assured; Its cooks being empowered and agro industries thriving, all of which outcomes have emerged from a well-thought-out Federal Government social intervention programme, that is currently feeding over nine million pupils in over 32 States across Nigeria.
“Indeed, it is a misconception to believe that the school feeding programme was structured to effect payments directly into the coffers of any state government, as appears to be the perception held by Ayade.
“Rather, the programme is designed to strategically benefit the farmers, women and children of the State, also assuring of an increase in financial and social inclusion, as well as the steady growth of the State’s rural economy.’’
He said 12,198 young people in Cross Rivers were currently enlisted in various components of the Federal Government’s N-POWER programme, with over 10,000 beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme across 18 LGAs of the State.
Bibiye added that no fewer than 25,000 traders and artisans had received MarketMoni and TraderMoni loans, from the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme, across the state.(NAN)