What was discussed at the School Feeding Forum in Washington, DC?


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Where are the opportunities for smallholder farmers to gain income from selling to school feeding programmes and other institutional buyers? This was the question that brought together critical actors at a learning event organised by SNV USA and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and hosted by George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration on 12 April 2016.

Panelists, who represented academia, U.S. Government, international organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders, brought a variety of data and experiences to the discussion. The dialogue provided context and support to SNV USA’s lessons learned and knowledge exchange as the Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) project is approaching close-out.

The event engaged participants in three panel discussions on (1) school feeding as a structured demand market, (2) preparing farmers to supply to school feeding programs, and (3) making a space for farmer participation in public procurement processes. The day began by laying the foundation of our best knowledge and practices regarding school feeding. Andy Chi Tembon of the World Bank provided an overview of the history of school feeding, and Daniel Balaban of the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Centre for Excellence against Hunger provided the Brazilian example of a successful national school feeding programme.

Examining structured demand

In the first panel, Arlene Mitchell, Executive Director of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, related the history of structured demand markets for development, based on her experience with the former strategy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and called for more data to inform future projects. The presentation of Dick Commandeur of SNV USA, citing data from SNV USA’s Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) project, gave an initial response to this call by describing the economic and market potential of structured demand markets like school feeding and strategic food reserves to contribute to poverty reduction and incentivise rural development. Mr. Commandeur explained the large structured demand markets available in Ghana, Kenya and Mali and their potential application to bring smallholder farmers into formal markets.  

Representing academia, Dr. Ivy Ken of George Washington University presented her research into the small, organic, women-led farming cooperatives in Chile. The cooperatives are working with local governments to become school feeding suppliers, supporting the idea that linkages between smallholder farmers and school feeding, especially in remote rural areas, is a global opportunity. Speaking from the U.S. Department of Agriculture perspective, Ingrid Ardjodoediro discussed plans for a new Local and Regional Procurement programme that will procure commodities in developing countries to provide development assistance and respond to food crises and disasters. In this case, the projects to be implemented will act as a structured demand market, meaning a great potential for smallholder farmers to sell their products.

Strengthening producer organisations to access the School Feeding Market

However, simply because a market exists does not mean smallholder farmers will be able to access it. SNV USA’s David Makongo explained how the PG-HGSF project worked with producer organisations as the key linchpin between smallholders and formal markets. As a specialist in producer organisation development, Mr. Makongo spoke on SNV Kenya’s specific interventions to train producer organisations to engage successfully with the school feeding market as businesses. Speaking with Makongo were Israel Klug of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN who discussed the various production limitations of smallholder farmers and the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Aulo Gelli who emphasised the need to research how structured demand impacts farmers´ lives and what interventions are most useful. Erin McGuire of the National Farm to School Network complemented these discussions with examples of smallholder farmer inclusion in school feeding contracts in the United States.

Procuring publicly – systemising government procedures

Rounding off the day’s efforts to holistically address the potential of school feeding as a market, the final panel discussed public administration as the other side of the school feeding coin, exploring the role of good public management in supporting the market and smallholders.

John Brooks culminated SNV’s representation with a look into how SNV USA addressed pro-smallholder procurement improvements in Ghana as a key intervention to creating sustainable systems of procurement from smallholder farmers and producer organisations. From WFP’s Centre for Excellence, Christiani Buani explained the methods by which the Brazilian government is ensuring that smallholder farmers are included in school feeding programmes by way of public procurement procedures. Tania Ghossein, a World Bank procurement specialist, detailed the mechanisms that need to be present in order to ensure that inclusive procurement occurs, including two-tier complaint mechanisms to build public trust in the process. Georg Neumann of Open Contracting Partnership highlighted the need for open data and contracting to increase access to goods and procurement, a key idea that has been a theme of the PG-HGSF projects in Ghana, Kenya and Mali.

Outcomes and on-going thoughts

These various perspectives and lessons synergised into a broad view of how the different actors within school feeding, structured demand markets and good governance can work together towards mutual development goals. The interactive panels and contributions from an active audience facilitated greater international knowledge exchange on issues that are being discussed across South America, Africa and the United States. The event resulted in a deeper understanding of the holistic relationship between structured demand, school feeding, smallholder farmers and rural livelihoods built through rigorous multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Presentations from the event can be downloaded here.

Photo (from left to right): Arlene Mitchell, Global Child Nutrition Foundation; Dr. Ivy Ken, George Washington University; Dick Commandeur, SNV USA; Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff, George Washington University; Katherine Casey, SNV USA.