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  HOME PAGE 19/10/2021 03:18 
26.09.2021 14:42 News >> Tanzania's Milk Program Boosts Children's Health, Class Attendance

Tanzania's Milk Program Boosts Children's Health, Class Attendance

Project work to improve nutrition, increase income as World School Milk Day approaches.

It is not clear if it is the taste of milk that lures seven-year-old Izabela Sambanae to climb the hill to school each morning, or if the daily protein boost to her diet gives her enough energy to wake up early and get going.
Despite the cold weather, the fresh milk Izabela and other pupils at Itunduma primary school drink each morning are soaring attendance rates, better focus in class and improved health.
When the milk program was introduced at the school in Tanzania's southern highlands in July 2017, parents immediately saw the benefits.
As the world prepares to mark World School Milk Day this week on Wednesday, Izabela's mother, Justina Mgimbadzu, said her daughter, who used to dodge classes, now wakes herself and strolls up the hill to school without being asked.
Izabela's grades are among the best in her class and she is feeling confident about her school work.
"The milk gives me energy to listen to the teacher," she said.
Izabela's family of four lives in a mud-walled house with a tainted corrugated roof.
"We're thankful for the milk being supplied," said Mgimbadzu. "My daughter enjoys better health and more energy,"
Improved health
Under the project to fight malnutrition, and help local dairy farmers find new markets, the health of school children has remarkably improved from the nutrients so does the local economy as farmers earn incomes.
As proven by children, parents and teachers who benefit from the school's milk program, the scheme has become an advertisement for dairy farmers wishing to expand their customer base.
While drinking milk is not a new thing in Tanzania's southern highlands, the nutritional benefits of dairy products are considered a luxury to poor families.
"We want to drink milk, but we cannot afford to buy it for our family," said Edson Joseph Msigwa, a father of three who indulges his children with their favorite treats of rice and milk when he can afford it.
The project, which involves more than 700 farmers is part of the East Africa Dairy Project, working to improve nutrition and increase incomes.
Once processed and packaged, the milk goes to schools and markets.
A fleet of vans, trucks and motorbikes collect fresh, raw milk from farmers daily, then deliver it to the Njombe Milk Factory.
Farmers who buy into the dairy cooperative model pay their delivery costs and the factory pays them 660 Tanzanian shillings (about $0.30) per liter.
Although that is significantly less than the 1,000 Tanzanian shillings ($0.45 cents) per liter they could get selling the milk themselves, farmers who sell to the factory get the benefit of having a steady buyer.
Increased demand
Since the project began, the demand for milk has grown by more than 50% and the milk that goes through the factory is pasteurized making it safer, more expensive and more appealing to children.
Students who get free milk at school enjoy good health and clear thinking they need to succeed in class.
A student hits a rusty truck wheel with an iron rod in the courtyard of Itunduma Primary School each morning to signal tea break, and children in their red sweaters and blue skirts pour in from all directions.
Itunduma teacher, Faraja Mgaya, oversees the milk program at her school, an extra duty she took on gladly in hopes of boosting her students' health and academic performance.
"It was a golden chance," she said. And she is pleased to see children are cleaner, more alert and in better spirits.
Attendance is up an average of 10% throughout the school since the program began -- a similar boost other schools participating in the project have reported.
A compact delivery truck plastered with cartoon milk ads putters up the dirt road to the school each morning around 10 a.m., and a team of older students haul coolers milk from the back.
"Most kids don't get any breakfast at home, the milk is the first thing they get each day," said Mgaya.
Festo Kiswaga, a father of three whose children go to Uwemba Primary School, counts on the milk and lunch provided at school to keep his children healthy.
Matrida Peter, a math teacher who oversees the school milk program at Nyumbanitu Primary, said all of her students seem to have gained weight and vigor. "Their skin was dull and dry, but now their skin is shining," she said.
In a region where many homes lack electricity for refrigeration and enough money to buy milk, critics say dairy products have not been a big part of the daily diet among poorer families.
"There are some children here who never tasted milk after breastfeeding," said Cosmos Mfugale, a dairy farmer and father of three.
"I like it so much," said Francis Mlowe, a third-grader at Uwemba Primary. "It tastes like sugar." -



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