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Tanzanian school children to benefit from regional free milk program 

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) -- More than 10,000 schoolchildren in south western Tanzania are expected to benefit from the East African one-year school milk feeding program, designed to boost the milk yields and incomes of small-scale farmers in three East African Community countries.

The program is being spearheaded by Heifer International through the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD), thanks to a 25.5 million U.S. dollars grant from the Gates Foundation.

In Tanzania, the program implemented in four southern highlands regions of Njombe, Iringa, Songwe and Mbeya.

Under the program, a pupil receives a 200 mls packet of fresh milk every Monday to Friday during school days.

Christopher Ole Sendeka, Njombe Regional Commissioner, said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 school children under the age of nine have started benefiting from the project, which intends cultivate a strong milk drinking culture among children and create a stable demand for milk in the southern highlands regions.

Sendeka commended the project, saying: “It has come at the right time when consumption of milk remains low in the region and the country at large.”

He also lauded Heifer International and other key partners for supporting the project, which upon completion would transform the dairy industry in the region.

So far, Njombe Region has a total of 21,132 dairy cattle, which produces an average of 8,764,654 litres per year, according to Sendeka.

Mark Tsoxo, project manager of EADD II Tanzania, said that the program is also meant to create stable domestic milk markets in Southern Highlands.

Tsoxo said that the program has kicked off in Njombe and in the next two months, Mbeya, Songwe and Iringa regions will follow.

School children at Nundu Primary School in Njombe region, are among those who have started benefiting from the program, the official said.

In one year, the project is targeting to reach out more than 10,000 pupils in Tanzania.

EADD II in Tanzania works with local milk processors, who buy milk from smallholder farmers involved in the EADD II project in the region.

The EADD official, in Tanzania, per capita milk consumption is 46 litres per person per annum which is far below the FAO and WHO recommended standard (200 litres).

Cultural issues, as well as the lack of availability and affordability, can be attributed to the low milk consumption.

“This deprives populations, especially children under 9 years who spend most of their days in schools, from essential nutrients key to their health, growth and performance in schools,” Tsoxo said.

“The group is a target because of being a catastrophe by stunted growth and affected by HIV/AIDS prevalence.”

It estimated that stunted growth in Njombe, Iringa and Mbeya(Including Songwe) regions are 51.5 percent, 51.3 and 36 respectively, where as HIV/AIDS infection rates are 14.8 percent, 9.1 percent, and 9 percent in Njombe, Iringa and Mbeya (including Songwe) respectively.

EADD Project II is a five-year project designed to help smallholder farm families in Kenya Uganda and Tanzania to sustainable improve their livelihoods.

The project hopes to double the daily income of 136,000 farming households’ smallholder farm families to achieve sustainable improved livelihoods in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania by 2018.

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