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Lao PDR, USDA MCGovern-Dole School Feeding Programme 2020-2025: Baseline Evaluation

https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000142223/download/
This decentralized evaluation was commissioned by WFP Lao PDR Country Office and covers the Baseline Evaluation of the WFP School-Feeding Program supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) McGovern-Dole Grant [Fiscal year 2020-25]. It was carried out in 2021.

The evaluation was commissioned to provide a situational analysis before the program begins, to establish baseline values for all performance indicators and review targets, to validate program design assumptions, and to provide program implementation suggestions for the five-year program. It was intended for both accountability and learning purposes. It focused on assessing relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability of the program with a lesser focus on efficiency; establishing impact at this stage of baseline evaluation was not possible.

Overarching evaluation questions focused on: coherence with government’s education, health & nutrition, social protection and other relevant policies, strategies, and plans, the current status of learning outcomes, enrolment, attendance, and participation rates, current dietary practices, knowledge attitude practices of different stakeholders, nutrition-related infrastructure in schools, nature of WASH infrastructure in school and at home, WASH support needed, involvement of Village Education and Development Council and community, willingness to contribute to school meals, manner in which program design ensure efficiency in service delivery and handover, analysing gender dimensions, and capacity levels of different stakeholders, willingness to participate in the program, elements that facilitate handover, need for additional advocacy by WFP.

Key evaluation findings included :

  • The program design is completely aligned with the Education Sector and Sports Development Plan and National School Meals Program, with a vision to improve the educational and nutritional target of the country and meet the SDG targets. McGovern-Dole-SFP FY20 is directly in-line with WFP’s CSP. The program focuses heavily on enhancing the capacities of the government across national, provincial, and district levels, and the local communities to enable them to take ownership of school meals by 2025.
  • The baseline findings indicate that all program villages are not at the same level at the onset of the program. Schools in remote locations are relatively more vulnerable as a group to malnutrition and poor education outcomes. Poverty is one of the most critical determinants of absenteeism in schools.
  • People reflected a general readiness to adopt the program as well as new health and nutritional practices, provided they receive adequate support to pursue the same.
  • In order to ensure that the farmers benefit from the program, it is essential to not only increase their farm production but also identify ways and means for increasing their incomes.
  • Role of women in leadership roles, particularly at the village level seems fairly limited. Women, particularly from the ethnic groups, living in remote rural locations are less likely to be involved in strategic and financial decision-making, which are predominantly reserved for men.

Key evaluation observations included :

  • Need to intensify community mobilization and awareness activities, particularly around introducing nutritious food items not consumed traditionally by certain communities (for instance, lentils);
  • Use of digital mediums for capacity building of district officials and stakeholders at the community level;
  • Need to diversify livelihoods and establish market linkages for farmers;
  • Need to have a higher intensity of SFP implementation in villages in remote locations and those inhabited by ethnic groups;
  • Allot fixed responsibilities for development and maintenance of school garden; and
  • Increase platforms for engagement of Village Education and Development Council with the community, and offer non-monetary incentives through gamification.