At the World Food Programme Centre of Excellence Brazil (WFP CoE Brazil), digital transformation is changing South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC). Given the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), digital tools facilitate innovative exchanges between Brazil and other developing countries. To foster the sustainability of SSTC in supporting the scale-up of national school feeding programmes, WFP CoE Brazil has been piloting remote assistance with Nepal and The Gambia. Since 2017, WFP CoE Brazil has supported the WFP Country Office in Nepal in developing the assessments, planning and technical frameworks necessary to scale up the national school meal pilot programmes. Since 2019, WFP CoE Brazil has supported The Gambia in linking its school feeding programme with the national agriculture sector and in applying for international funds to finance food production and market access for smallholder farmers. Experiences from both countries have helped to transform the remote assistance provided by WFP CoE Brazil into a larger assistance package called ‘Virtual Exchanges’.
Towards a Solution
This digital transformation has allowed WFP CoE Brazil to replace the frequent air travel, deployment missions and temporary duty assignments necessary to promote technical and advisory services, partnerships, advocacy, and knowledge services through SSTC.
Nepal was the first country to benefit from the SSTC initiative. In 2017, WFP CoE Brazil shared the Brazilian experience in home grown school feeding through virtual sessions and webinars, with a view to supporting the Country Office in Nepal in its assessment of a cash-based school meal pilot programme combined with complementary nutrition-sensitive literacy education. WFP Brazil has also been designing a package for remote technical support for WFP Nepal, which includes sharing knowledge on school menu design and holding conference calls on financing mechanisms for school feeding programmes. Upcoming deliverables include remote participation in events, workshops and seminars, with eventual in-country missions.
Learning from its experience with Nepal, WFP CoE Brazil developed the prototype for its ‘Virtual Exchanges’ methodology. The Centre designed a menu of services that can be tailored to request, and programme components incorporate knowledge management and technical assistance. The repository combines the global know-how with the valuable knowledge of the Brazilian experience in food and nutrition security and social protection. To share this knowledge, WFP CoE Brazil has designed four series of publications, a direct channel for remote technical support and a set of learning tools, all available on its website.
‘Virtual Exchanges’ promotes remote assistance that supports the design, implementation and delivery of a high-quality feeding programme and facilitates field operations under country strategic plans. This methodology develops data-informed and knowledge-based remote assistance that draws on the role and experience of WFP CoE Brazil as a knowledge hub. This approach defines needs and designs a package for remote technical support and the delivery of outputs. The exchange could involve sharing knowledge through publications; conference calls; reviews of relevant documents; country-specific webinars; capacity-building trainings and videos; remote participation in missions, events, workshops and seminars; and in-person events, if there is demand and available country funding.
Between 2018 and 2019, WFP CoE Brazil proposed for the WFP Country Office in The Gambia to participate in some of the ‘Virtual Exchanges’. WFP Brazil, the WFP Country Office in The Gambia and the Government of The Gambia have supported the Home Grown School Feeding Multisector Working Group, which seeks to scale up the connection between the agriculture sector and existing school feeding programme models in the country. WFP Brazil and the WFP Country Office are preparing several resource mobilization projects for international funds of over US$10 million to finance capacity-building and develop smallholder farming through South-South cooperation with a gender-sensitive approach. In The Gambian case, air travel is still necessary; however, there has already been a significant reduction in physical deployment, given the scale of the project.
This sustainable approach is possible due to the role played by the WFP Country Office in The Gambia, which is responsible for coordinating with the Government on all aspects of the programme. The Country Office serves as the entry point, connecting WFP CoE Brazil with the national stakeholders. Through SSTC, WFP Brazil offers capacity strengthening knowledge, advocacy and technical advisory services for the WFP Country Office to better support the Government, particularly in resource mobilization. The Gambia Country Office of the United Nations Population Fund supports WFP in Banjul on gender and health issues, providing knowledge and policy advice for a gender-sensitive approach. Activities include high-level meetings, webinars and the remote development of projects and publications. In-person missions were largely avoided, allowing officers on both sides flexibility in designing and delivering products; they were held only three times during project submission deadlines.
The outcomes of these two SSTC initiatives have already made contributions, including strategic planning and financing, stakeholder programme design and delivery, access to markets for smallholder farming and the engagement and participation of non-State actors. This digital transformation seeks new ways to support Governments, local actors, non-governmental organizations and WFP headquarters and field offices. Remote assistance will be a key component for countries seeking comprehensive, adaptive and agile, yet inexpensive, support, especially while the impacts of COVID-19 last.