Dubai: Curaze Nukroo, a struggling farmer in rural Ethiopia, hopes the Dubai Cares Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme will be a chance for his six children to escape grinding poverty.

Nukroo has already lost three children to hunger and disease.

“The school is important here. My biggest dream is if the [primary] school can become a high school. It’s like an insurance to get jobs. I can’t afford to send my kids to another town for high school,” he says, while seated outside his mud hut.

Nukroo, who doesn’t know his age “because I’m not educated,” has a 20-year-old son in school.

“He started late,” says Nukroo, a soft-spoken man.

Many children in the countryside don’t attend classes to help out at the farm. Others stay back because there is no food at the nearest schools, often located several kilometres away by foot.

He hopes the Dubai Cares programme to supply locally-sourced school meals will reverse that trend, motivating children to attend and learn while providing a market for isolated farmers.

“Whatever food I have I give to my youngest first. If I don’t have anything to give them, at least they will eat at school — (HGSF) is like a safety net.

“When the rains don’t come, we face a food shortage. Finding water is the biggest problem, we have to walk 10 kilometres to fetch water. We cut wood and sell it to buy food and water.”

His children, some barefoot with open wounds, don’t bathe for two weeks at a time to save water, carried back in yellow jerry cans.