UN World Food Programme

Improving links between smallholder farmers and school feeding programmes

Students in Malawi with their school meals, which were produced using crops from P4P-supported smallholder farmers. Copyright: WFP/Ken Davies

Home Grown School Feeding programmes implemented by governments with the support of partners, including WFP, are increasingly providing assured markets for smallholder farmers. At least half of the 20 P4P pilot countries report linking smallholder farmers’ organizations to school feeding programmes. By strengthening government ownership and fostering community engagement, this should enhance sustainability.

By linking local agricultural production to school meals, Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programmes multiply benefits for rural communities. They can increase enrolment, improve nutrition, boost local economies, improve smallholders’ livelihoods and develop government capacity. Due to varied country contexts, each HGSF programme is unique, but are generally characterized by the incorporation of local food purchases into government-run school feeding programmes.

In Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique the link between P4P and HGSF has been strengthened by the Purchase from Africans for Africa (PAA) initiative.

Benefiting rural communities

In Malawi, smallholder farmers are providing 10 primary schools with locally available foods, including fish, groundnuts and bananas, as well as staple grains. The project is currently being scaled up. Since the beginning of the HGSF pilot in Malawi, enrolment has increased by approximately 15 percent in participating schools. Serving nutrient-rich meals made from fresh, traditional foods can promote diet diversification, a lesson which many schools, such as the Hanja Chafa Primary School in Ethiopia reinforce through nutrition education. These efforts support improved nutrition at both household and community level, as children take this knowledge home with them. In Malawi and Ethiopia, through the PAA Africa partnership, FAO supports these efforts by providing inputs and training smallholder farmers in improving production.

The assured market presented by HGSF programmes can work as an incentive for smallholder farmers to invest in increasing agricultural production. In 2014, Malawian farmer Clara Bamusi earned nearly 80,000 kwacha (US$ 200) from her sales of maize, soya, sweet potatoes and ground nuts to the Ching’ombe Primary School. “The greatest benefit has been the reliable market,” says Clara. “With my earnings I bought double the fertilizer and hybrid seed, and because of these inputs I was able to grow and harvest more bags of maize this year compared to last.” HGSF programmes can specifically support women farmers through an emphasis on crops which women traditionally farm and market, such as pulses. This has been a focus in Zambia, where 30 to 50 percent of pulses required for HGSF are procured from P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

Ensuring sustainability

Ownership by governments and communities is vital for the success and sustainability of HGSF programmes. National governments have already demonstrated their full commitment, in many cases seeking guidance on how to best link smallholder farmers to school feeding programmes. For example, in Honduras, WFP has worked with the national government to improve these links, including through exchange visits with WFP’s Centre of Excellence in Brazil. The national school feeding programme in Honduras reaches 90 percent of schoolchildren in the country. In 2013, nearly half the maize and beans required for the programme were provided by P4P-supported farmers’ organizations. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal government partnerships are further strengthened through PAA Africa, which is inspired by the Brazilian learning with institutional local procurement. Strong partnerships between national and district governments and WFP have allowed for more effective uptake by schools and farmers’ organizations.

The HGSF model has the potential to increase community engagement and participation. This is particularly true when procurement is decentralized, enabling district authorities or schools to purchase food directly from local smallholder farmers and their organizations. In Malawi, procurement committees composed of parents, community members, teachers and pupils receive training in procurement planning, negotiation and delivery terms. This allows schools to negotiate directly with farmers to most cost-effectively purchase nutritious food. They are also provided with a recipe book to guide their choice of foods, as well as guidance on how to ensure that students’ nutritional needs are met.

Moving forward with lessons learned

Emerging lessons learned suggest that HGSF efforts can be most effectively linked with P4P-supported farmers in those districts with the greatest productive potential. Many farmers’ organizations also require continued support to aggregate and market quality commodities. Linking smallholder farmers with school feeding in Kenya proved challenging due to the different implementation areas of the two programmes. To address this, additional farmers’ organizations near HGSF implementation areas are now being targeted for capacity development from P4P and partners. Though further support is required to increase their capacity, three farmer’s organizations have now supplied food to nine schools. Infrastructure and equipment, such as processing and storage facilities have also proven vital to success. In order to assist smallholders to sell to HGSF programmes in Ghana, P4P is working to link farmers’ organizations with processors.

Though progress has been made, many challenges remain. For example, in Liberia, limited funding and high local prices in comparison to the import parity price (IPP) makes purchasing rice from smallholders challenging. To assist smallholder farmers to be more competitive in the local market, the production of cowpeas and their incorporation in school feeding programmes is now emphasized. Regional initiatives such as the West Africa Rice Organization are investing in cost-effective production, which helps to further reduce costs for farmers. Purchasing local commodities from smallholder farmers at a cost slightly above market prices is sometimes necessary as a transition measure.

Read more:

Report: Home-grown school feeding: A Framework to link school feeding with local agricultural production

Ethiopia feeding itself with support from WFP’s P4P and school meals programmes

Championing home grown school feeding for farmers and children in Malawi

Brazilian pro-smallholder procurement model inspires African governments

PAA Africa website

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