For ten days, three delegations from Benin, Burundi, and Togo, were in Brazil on a study visit to learn how Brazil develops, structures, finances, implements, and evaluates its social protection programmes, especially the National School Feeding Programme.
The representatives from Benin, Burundi, and Togo were in the federal capital, Brasilia, and Salvador, Santo Amaro, and Simões Filho, in Bahia state, to talk with representatives of governmental institutions, school staff, students, and farmers. Based on the lessons learned during the visit, the representatives of the three countries designed an action plan to develop and implement home-grown school feeding programmes.
The delegations were composed of about 30 people, including representatives of governments and regional and country offices of the World Food Program. Also participated in the study visit Debra Paff, Head of the School Feeding and Humanitarian Assistance Unit of the Food Assistance Division at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who came to see first-hand the Brazilian experiences of school feeding and fight against hunger and poverty. The three countries are in different stages of developing and implementing home-grown school feeding programmes.
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The Burundi delegation was led by the minister of Education, Dr. Rose Gahiru. In an interview, the minister said that the decision to come to Brazil to participate in the study visit was due to the fact that Brazil has been recognized as a reference in the organization of school feeding programmes, which has been a challenge for her country. "The aspect of how to structure and organize the feeding program in schools is undoubtedly what will help us the most in Burundi". The minister also said that the exchange of experiences with other African countries supported by the Centre of Excellence is very positive. "I didn’t have the information that so many countries had school feeding initiatives. By knowing the different forms of organization of activities, we can see what works and what can be adapted to Burundi."
Nicole Jacquet, deputy director of the WFP Country Office in Burundi, said that the study visit came at an opportune time, as the National School Feeding Programme in Burundi was launched in October 2013 in three provinces, funded by the Government of the Netherlands. "With this scenario, being able to learn how Brazil achieved such impressive results in fighting hunger and finding ways to adapt lessons from Brazil to Burundi were the biggest motivation to participate in the study visit. She also said that, in Burundi, "home-grown school feeding programmes are being widely recognized and everyone is enthusiastic about it, but we know that we need experienced consultants in areas lacking in Burundi, and so the support of the Centre will be needed as soon as possible".
Housainou Taal, WFP representative in Benin and Togo, said that before the trip, he was curious to know how Brazil had achieved so many advances in food security and social protection. "Brazil has a unique experience in the area of social safety nets," he said. Adapting initiatives in public policy, social mobilization, and the right to food will be the big challenge for Benin and Togo, according to him, who also highlighted the local purchase of food for school feeding. Taal explained that interaction with other African countries does not occur naturally. "The study visit organized by the Centre of Excellence facilitates learning across countries. It is a wonderful experience that gives us a big push!"
At the closing session, representatives from Benin, Burundi, and Togo highlighted a common challenge: elaborate a strategy of mobilization of resources that allow the countries to move forward with the improvement of their home-grown school feeding programmes. For the three countries, the main demand to tackle this and their other challenges is technical assistance.
The Centre of Excellence will continue to offer support for the three countries, in the form of technical assistance, and in accordance with the activities and goals established in the action plans. Such support may include deploying consultants to each country to assist in the development or improvement of public policies, in the organization of seminars to validate these policies and in the implementation of programmes and projects. The joint visit was also an opportunity to begin a process of regional cooperation among the three countries that is expected to continue and even be expanded to other countries.
The Brazilian Cooperation Agency, the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE), the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA), the National Council for Food and Nutrition Security (Consea), the National Supply Company (Conab), and the State Secretariat for Education of Bahia were some of the institutions with which the delegations were able to exchange experiences during the study visit. They also had a meeting with the governor of Bahia, Jacques Wagner, to learn about the coordination between the different levels of government to ensure that social protection programmes work properly.