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Black Tie International: World Food Programme
 

 

 
Photo by:  Bernard Pollack

School Feeding Programs Improve Livelihoods, Diets, and Local Economies

Photo by:  Bernard Pollack

 
 
In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of children come to school in the morning without breakfast, if they attend school at all. Many suffer from health and developmental problems, including stunted growth. Exhausted from hunger and poor nutrition, they often have trouble paying attention and learning during class.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides school meals for about 20 million children in Africa. While some national governments, including Côte d’Ivoire, have provided school meals for decades, the food, fuel, and financial crises of 2007–08 highlighted the role that school nutrition programs can play in not only improving education, health, and nutrition, but also providing a safety net for children living in poverty. For some children, these programs provide the only real meal of the day.

Improved school menus provide students with much-needed nutrition while also creating an incentive for both students and parents to keep up regular attendance. Some programs include a take-home ration, targeted specifically at improving the attendance of girls. In exchange for an 80-percent attendance rate for one month, for example, students are able to take home a jug of vegetable oil to their family. Students also often share the nutrition information they learn at school with family members, helping to improve the nutritional value of meals made at home.

Earlier this year, the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), in partnership with the WFP and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program. HGSF, modeled in part after programs developed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), works with governments to develop and implement school feeding programs, improving the diets and education of students while also creating jobs and supporting local agriculture.

Starting with five countries that were either already running school food programs or had demonstrated an interest in them and a capacity for implementation—including Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, and Ghana—HGSF hopes to create a bigger market for rural farmers through demand created by purchasing only locally grown and processed food for school meals.

“The definition of ‘local’ varies from country to country,” says Kristie Neeser, program coordinator at PCD. “Some schools keep their food purchasing within the local community and some keep their purchasing within the country. But what is most important is creating that relationship between the farmers and the government program.”

To best facilitate links between farmers and governments, HGSF works closely with the ministries of education to develop programs that will suit local needs and customs. In Ghana, for example, markets are run by “market queens,” women who purchase vegetables from farmers and then sell them to commercial buyers at markets. To avoid disrupting this system, HGSF works to incorporate the market queens with Ghana’s school purchasing process, instead of attempting to deal directly with the farmers, as programs in other countries often do.

Ultimately, HGSF hopes to work with 10 countries, transitioning each program to being fully government owned, funded, and implemented—creating a permanent safety net for school children and a dependable demand for local, small-scale, farmer-sourced produce.


 
Nourishing the Planet: Evaluating Environmentally Sustainable Solutions to Reduce Global Hunger and Rural Poverty

 
A Worldwatch Institute project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Agricultural development has come to a crossroads. Nearly a half-century after the Green Revolution—the first systematic, large-scale attempt to reduce poverty and hunger throughout the world—a large share of the human family is still chronically hungry. At the same time, investments in agricultural development by governments, international lenders, and foundations are at historic lows.

The timing couldn’t be worse, as a complexity of demographic, economic, and natural forces all conspire to make the challenge of reducing hunger that much more difficult. These include soaring petroleum and food prices as well as climate change and persistent unfair trade agreements. Still, the current crisis offers a window of opportunity for refocusing the world’s attention on food, agriculture, and rural areas and for reestablishing food security as a global priority. As more decision makers and funders shift resources back toward agricultural development in coming years, they have a gaping need
for guidance.

In recent decades, a new generation of innovative approaches to hunger alleviation has emerged from farmers groups, private voluntary organizations, universities, and agribusiness companies. Many of these approaches offer useful models for larger-scale efforts. There is growing evidence that combinations of approaches (such as conventional practices paired with agroecological approaches or input-driven methods that also protect natural resources) are often more effective in terms of productivity, income generation, and resilience.

The Nourishing the Planet project will assess the state of agricultural innovations—from cropping methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy—with an emphasis on sustainability, diversity, and ecosystem health, as well as productivity. The project aims to both inform global efforts to eradicate hunger and raise the profile of these efforts. The project will also consider the institutional infrastructure needed by each of the approaches analyzed, suggesting what sort of companion investments are likely to determine success—from local seed banks to processing facilities, from pro-poor value chains to marketing bureaus.

The project will culminate in the release of State of the World 2011, a comprehensive report that will focus on agriculture and will be accompanied by derivative briefing documents, summaries, videos. and podcasts. This volume will be a roadmap for foundations and international donors interested in supporting the most effective agricultural development interventions in various agroecological and socioeconomic contexts. The project’s findings will be disseminated to a wide range of influential agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, farmer and community networks, and the increasingly influential non-governmental environmental and development communities.

Emphasizing on the ground research, project co-director Danielle Nierenberg is currently traveling throughout sub-Saharan Africa to meet with farmers, farmers groups, local government representatives, funders, and NGO’s. You can follow her research and the resulting conversations on the Nourishing the Planet blog: http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet

 

 

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