„During coffee harvest time children often don’t come to school“ says Wendmage Guta, director of Bufeta Gibe school.
It’s an inconvenient truth but it’s a truth. Even in certified fairtrade cooperatives like Bufeta Gibe where child labor is forbidden (this is what is written on the picture below) children help their parents during harvest time. This might not be child labor in the very negative sense: While my sister was renovating her house my niece and nephew were also working – because they wanted to. And the two boys of our neighbor who is a dairy farmer are also helping their father to herd the cattle. They just love their cows.
The problem is that the children of Bufeta Gibe cooperative skip school for harvesting the coffee we drink. And the coffee harvest takes two months. That’s one sixth of a year in which children come to school only every now and then.
We want to tackle this problem with a very easy trick: By providing school meals during harvest time. Because school meals have proved to be a very successful means to attract children to attend school – and by that to improve test scores. That’s what Havard economist Michael Kremer and World Bank economist Christel Vermeersch found out in Kenya in a randomized trial study. School participation raised by around 30 percent in the schools that received subsidized meals compared to schools that did not take part in the project.
Let’s hope that the same will be true for Bufeta Gibe school during harvest time. Our goal is to provide bread and honey in the morning break. Because the Ethiopians love honey: Driving through the country you can see bee hives everywhere. They are hanging in the trees.
And the honey they produce is incredibly delicious. In fact, the Limmu Coffee Union (of which Bufeta Gibe cooperative is a part) is a Honey Union as well. They will supply honey for the project. Also, honey and bread is easy and quick to hand out. The project should not disturb the school routine.
Poverty Action Lab at MIT