HISTORIC MOMENT: UK Parliament Commends Osun’s O’Meal Programme


It was a historic moment for Nigeria and Africa yesterday as the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in the British House of Commons, London, commended Osun State’s the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme, tagged O’Meals, as a successful model to be copied worldwide.

Governor Rauf Aregbesola received a loud applause as he made an eloquent and statistical presentation to the British parliament at Committee Room 9.

He suggested the biometric registration of beneficiaries of the programme wherever it is replicated to guarantee transparency.

To guarantee a sustainable future for Nigeria, the governor called for the replication of the programme in all states, with appropriate legislative backing extending it to the first nine years of schooling.

At the meeting presided over by Lord Cameron of Dillington, Aregbesola said technology was the best way to address the concern of development partners and international donors on.

Regretting that project funds were lost to corruption in the past, the governor said once beneficiaries are registered biometrically, banks linked with the programme funding would rely on the data to process payment.

He said: “Technology remains the only effective way to remove corruption from the implementation of the HGSF programme. Once biometric registration is introduced to beneficiaries, the data will be linked to banks and vendors would be paid. Beneficiaries are then able to register their biometric features through the Point of Sales (PoS) terminals to guarantee a transparent, corruption-free and efficient HGSF system worldwide.”

The Lead Health and Education Specialist of the World Bank, Prof. Donald Bundy; the Chief of School Feeding and Chronic Hunger Unit of the World Food Programme (WFP), Peter Rodrigues; Ms. Boitshepo Bibi Giyose of the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and the Senior Technical Adviser of the Partnership for Child Development, Imperial College, London, Prof. Josephine Kiamba, praised Aregbesola for successfully implementing the O’Meals despite the state’s limited finances.

Describing the programme as worthy of emulation by all African countries, Bundy said the scheme would be a safety net for feeding the poorest children in many countries, if Aregbesola’s community-based implementation strategies are adopted.

Rodrigues said Osun had shown practical ways to achieve the best result as the cost per child, per day and per annum demonstrated by Aregbesola clearly showed that the HGSF programme saves money and guarantees food security.

Promising that WFP would, in six months, provide evidence to back this assertion, Rodrigues said: “The programme is very complex. We need to get the local governments to buy into it and change the mindset of the host government.”

Aregbesola said from April 30, 2012, when the programme was rebranded as O’Meals, to December 31, 2013 (330 school days), enrolment in elementary schools increased from 203,858 to 252,793 representing 24 per cent increase.

He said his administration had spent N3,813,700,000 on the programme, which covers pupils from primary one to four.

Aregbesola said: “The cost per child per year is N15,100 (£57.60) and the cost per child per day is N45.70 (£0.17). In the same breath, 3,100 women were appointed and re-trained as community-based food vendors, while 462 out-growers of fish were successfully empowered for massive fish production to cater for the programme.

“In line with our promise two years ago to introduce the highly nutritious cocoyam to the food timetable, our administration mobilised a professor from the state university to train 1,000 farmers, including 90 women, in the Pink Cocoyam Rebirth Scheme.”

Aregbesola expressed hope that other states in Nigeria and the Federal Government would adopt the Osun model of the programme.

He said: “We require more support from our technical partners in capacity building to achieve biometric registration and digitisation of O’Meals to guarantee transparency and efficient resource management.”