School Feeding Program in RwandaRwanda is a small, densely populated country in Africa, located just south of the equator. Though the country has made great strides in poverty reduction since the 1994 genocide, 55% of the population still lived in poverty in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic halted a period of economic boom and, as a result, the World Bank expects poverty to rise by more than 5% in 2021. International aid and development programs in Rwanda are more important than ever, especially when it comes to providing reliable, nutritious food sources. Chronic malnutrition affects more than a third of Rwandan children younger than 5 and the World Food Programme (WFP) considers nearly 20% of Rwandans food insecure. One key initiative aiming to eradicate malnutrition in Rwanda is the WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda.

History of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

The WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding initiative works with local governments, farmers and schools to provide nutritious, diverse daily meals for students and enrich local economies. These Home Grown School Feeding programs currently operate in 46 countries with each program tailored to the needs of local people.

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda began in 2016, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mastercard. The program serves daily warm meals to more than 85,000 learners in 104 primary schools. The program benefits both students and their families in several major ways.

5 Benefits of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

  1. Improves Nutrition. Agriculture is the basis of Rwanda’s economy, but desertification, drought and other problems are decreasing harvests. As a result, many families struggle to grow enough food to feed themselves. The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda provides students with meals of either maize, beans or hot porridge. The school-provided meal is often the only regular, nutritious meal available to many students.
  2. Improves Hygiene. Along with kitchens and ingredients, the WFP also supplies schools in Rwanda with materials to teach basic nutrition and hygiene. One strategy includes installing rainwater collection tanks and connecting them to handwashing stations. Additionally, WFP workers build or renovate bathrooms at each school. Connecting the school to a reliable water supply also benefits the local community by decreasing the distance villagers travel to access water. School handwashing stations are also open to the community, improving health and hygiene for everyone.
  3. Improves Focus, Literacy and School Attendance. According to Edith Heines, WFP country director for Rwanda, “a daily school meal is a very strong incentive for parents to send their children to school.” In primary schools where the WFP implemented the Home Grown School Feeding Program, attendance has increased to 92%. With the implementation of the program, students report increased alertness in class and better grades and performance. One child from Southern Rwanda, Donat, told the WFP that before his school provided lunch, he was often so hungry that he did not want to return to school after going home at lunchtime. Now that his school provides lunch, he looks forward to class each day. Literacy rates have also improved dramatically at schools where the program operates and the WFP reports that student reading comprehension has increased from less than 50% to 78%.
  4. Teaches Gardening and Cooking Skills. The WFP develops a kitchen garden at every school involved in the Home Grown School Feeding program. Children participate in growing and caring for crops, learning valuable gardening skills that they can take home to their parents. Children are also instructed in meal preparation and in proper hygiene.
  5. Diversifying Crops at Home. Students also receive seedlings in order to provide food at home and to diversify the crops grown in food-insecure areas. Crop diversification can help improve soil fertility and crop yields. Sending seedlings home also promotes parent and community involvement in the program, ensuring the program’s long-term stability.

Looking Ahead

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda has improved the quality of life for many children living in poverty as well as their families. By fighting to end hunger in food-insecure areas of Rwanda, the WFP has improved hygiene, nutrition, school attendance, literacy, crop diversity and more. The continuation of the program in Rwanda and in other countries around the world will enable further progress in the fight against global poverty.

Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

AIDS Prevention in AfricaDespite its relatively low prevalence in the U.S., AIDS continues to be a seemingly uncontrollable global epidemic. But nowhere else on earth suffers as much from this tragic disease as Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69 percent of all those infected reside. Although poor sanitation, lack of preventative treatments and education are doubtlessly responsible, the inaccessibility of healthcare technologies also substantially inhibit AIDS prevention in Africa.

Many people in developing countries lack access to even the most basic of healthcare technologies. Access to these innovations are hindered by a variety of complex obstacles. Sometimes the treatments exist, although it is often impossible for the average person to afford them. Other times, however, the healthcare infrastructures are so poor that they are unable to support the life-saving technologies that wealthier countries can enjoy. The festering epidemic has caused the U.S. to make AIDS prevention in Africa a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This led to the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Since its inception in 2003, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support for its leadership in the containment of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It currently provides 11.5 million patients with antiretroviral treatment. This number is up from the mere 50,000 individuals receiving treatment before PEPFAR was established.

These numbers confirm the success of the program’s strategy. Through a new partnership with the financial leader Mastercard, however, PEPFAR plans on elevating its approach to AIDS prevention. The private-public partnership will introduce digital technologies and data analytics to improve access prevention and treatment plans. Research conducted by PEPFAR shows that the greatest cost in HIV/AIDS treatment is in treatment delivery rather than the cost of drugs. Through its partnership with Mastercard, the organization hopes to improve efficiency of its efforts.

Mastercard has a history of developing digital solutions for impoverished regions through its Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP). Since its formation in 2015, FRP has financed 19 projects across Sub-Saharan Africa that widen the economic inclusion of poor people living in rural areas. This unique charitable expertise makes Mastercard the perfect partner for PEPFAR in the endeavor to promote AIDS prevention in Africa.

Bringing healthcare technology to rural, impoverished communities may be the single most powerful step toward combating deadly diseases. Healthcare in developing countries is impeded by many obstacles such as a lack of formal training, research tools and funding. As a result, medical technology is only as useful as those implementing it are resourceful. With the partnership of two global leaders in health and innovation, PEPFAR and Mastercard promise to bring AIDS containment to regions that are suffering most.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

 Mobile Marketplace
Let’s grow together. This is what MasterCard enabled with the launch of the 2KUZE mobile marketplace in January, which connects smallholder farmers, agents, buyers and banks in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Users can buy, sell and receive electronic payments for their crops through a mobile app. 2KUZE mobile marketplace makes the selling of crops more efficient for farmers, eliminating the need for them to travel long distances to markets. The platform also gives them access to a wider marketplace, allowing them to seek out the best price for their crops. Women will benefit from selling their crops through the platform, as their duties often prevent them from leaving home.

Through the app, buyers can post orders with the help of an agent. Farmers can see the orders and accept them. Agents then collect the produce from farmers and deliver it to buyers. The agents also pay farmers through a bank transfer or cash.

Eighty percent of African farmers are classified as smallholder farmers, who own small plots of land and rely mostly on family labor and grow only a few cash crops. Smallholder farmers often work with limited resources and incomes, which makes it difficult for them to improve the profitability and sustainability of their crops.

Named after the Swahili words for “let’s grow together,” the 2KUZE mobile marketplace was developed through MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion. There are currently 2,000 smallholder farmers in Nandi Hills, Kenya using the marketplace to sell their produce and work with agents to reach the best buyers at the best price.

MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, collaborates with local expertise to improve access to financial services. The initiative works to empower the 500 million people previously excluded from financial services and promote more inclusive growth.

MasterCard also collaborated with Cafédirect Producers Foundation to introduce the 2KUZE mobile marketplace. This British nonprofit works with 280,000 smallholder farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The smallholder farmer-led organization allows farmers to share knowledge and develop their own projects.

Cell phones are now as popular in Nigeria and South Africa as they are in the U.S. While smartphones are not as widely used in Africa as basic cell phones, the availability of low-cost smartphones has caused smartphone ownership in Africa to increase rapidly.

In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 40% of adults in Kenya own a smartphone or use the internet. Twenty-one percent of adults in Tanzania and 11% of adults in Uganda reported in the same study that they use the internet or own a smartphone.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Last month, we talked about the #SelfiePolice project started by young college students who found an innovative way to turn the traditionally selflish “selfie” into a force for social good. Turning selfishness into selflessness has now also been embraced as a strategy by MasterCard and the World Food Programme (WFP), through the “Selfless Selfie Campaign.”

The Selfless Selfie Campaign was unleashed this year at the Mobile World Congress, where attendees were encouraged to stop by the MasterCard booth, take a selfie and tweet about it. For each selfie taken, MasterCard pledged to donate a month of school meals for a hungry child through the WFP.

The campaign did not end there. It found itself this week taking on “one of the hottest and most well-known festivals in the world,” South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. MasterCard donated $5 for every selfie taken at the festival and tweeted with the hashtag #dogood. Again, for each selfie tagged, MasterCard pledged to donate $5 to provide a month of school meals for a hungry child through a WFP program.

MasterCard and the WFP formed a global partnership in 2012, with the goal of delivering “ground-breaking technology to meet the needs of the world’s hungry and vulnerable populations in order to help end world hunger.” According to Hunter Biden, the Board Chair of the WFP USA, “66 million students across the developing world go to school hungry every day.” MasterCard and the WFP believe that a new approach to help these children lies in the power of technology to unlock innovation in food assistance.

One way to utilize the power of technology is through social media platforms. “Leveraging technology to do good is important to us at MasterCard,” said Ann Cairns, MasterCard President International Markets.

Twitter, in particular, has some staggering statistics that make it a valuable tool for corporations, non-profits, and activists worldwide to spread their message to millions:

  1.  There are now at least 230 million active users on Twitter globally, with over 100 million daily active users
  2. More than 5,000 tweets are tweeted every second
  3.  3 million websites integrate with Twitter.

Twitter and other social media sites offer a unique platform that connect millions of people, affording them opportunities to influence change and spark social justice movements in ways that were unimaginable before.

– Rifk Ebeid

Photo: Mastercard
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