THE government is finalising a process to embark on a vital exercise for the implementation of the School Milk Programme (SMP), the eagerly-awaited project that focuses on improving students' health as well as cognitive ability.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Professor Riziki Shemdoe, said the ministry was currently working on some pending issues in readiness to start rolling out milk to the intended schools across the country.
Speaking during the final meeting for perusal of the crucial plan, Prof Shemdoe said the government was seriously concerned with poor milk drinking rate and culture in Tanzania.
"While the World Health Organisations (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommend an individual to consume at least 200 litres of milk annually, in Tanzania the rate is very disconcerting at only at 64 litres," he unveiled.
To that end, he said, the government in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and FAO, has decided to bridge efforts to ensure the school milk programme will be implemented successfully as a way to help improve the situation from the grassroots.
Together with that, he added, the ministry is looking forward to engaging potential dairy players from the private sector to add muscle in the dispensation of the programme, especially in assuring availability of abundant milk.
The Head of Nutrition from UNICEF-Tanzania, Mr Patrick Codjia, stated that the envisaged plan was of paramount importance in helping improve students' health and academic performance, saying his side was keen and well prepared to cooperate with the government in rolling out of the program.
The Registrar of the Tanzania Dairy Board (TDB), Dr George Msalya, said about 15bn/- is needed to have the programme implemented for five years with a total of 500 schools across the country.
According to him, the vision is to start with at least 100 schools in the period of 2023/2024 while other 100 schools will be added every year for the five consecutive years of implementation, and schools covered are expected to increase from 125 to 625 by 2027, with the targeted beneficiaries being those aged between 4 to 19 years.
Under the timely programme, Dr Msalya said the milk products to be distributed to the students will be processed ones, either pasteurised, UHT, cultured milk or yoghurt, depending on availability, infrastructure of the area, and the quantity of milk supplied are of 150mls to 200mls produced.
He added that implementation of the programme was projected to play a meaningful role to spur school enrolment and reduce absenteeism, whereby the children will always be at school and concentrate in learning.
"The programme can also contribute to their learning through avoiding hunger and expanding their cognitive abilities," he noted.
Moreover, evidence from the Tanzania National School Malaria and Nutrition Survey (SMNS) of 2019 indicates that on average, children from public primary schools consumed limited diversified meals, food being the least consumed food groups by majority of school children.
Among the stakeholders who were involved in the development of the Action Plan for Implementation of School Milk Programme in Tanzania (2023-2028) include the President's Office, (Regional Authority and Local Government), Prime Minister's office, ministries responsible with education, health, Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB).
Others are Tanzania Milk Processors Association (TAMPA), Tanga Fresh Limited, ASAS Dairies Limited, Shambani Milk, Profate Dairy, Nronga Women Dairy, Land O'Lakes Venture 37, Heifer International (Heifer Tanzania), Solidaridad, Nutrition Connect, TETRA Pack and SNV, among others