Despite progress to date in reducing hunger in developing countries, 11.3 per cent of the world’s population remains hungry. Roughly 805 million people around the world go undernourished.
Currently, around 59 million primary school-aged children are out of school, of which half are in sub-Saharan Africa. In low income countries, approximately 40 percent of children do not complete primary education. In low- and middle-income countries, about 300 million school children have iron-deficiency anaemia, causing them to lose some six IQ points per child and about 73 million primary school children in low-income countries go to school hungry. Other barriers to education are associated with gender and social norms. In Northern Africa and Western Asia, there are 132 female adolescents out of lower secondary school for every 100 adolescent boys.
Child undernutrition and poor health cost on average 5 percent of the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of Western and Central African countries, comprising an estimated of USD 74 billion. In Ghana alone, this represents almost USD 3 billion. In The Gambia, one of the most vulnerable states in the region, undernutrition costs USD 83 million. This is twice as much as the budget the government could allocate to the education or health sectors in 2019. This cost affects systemic conditions for development in the region as it disturbs the most valuable long-term factor of production: human capital.
Towards a Solution
The WFP Brazil Centre of Excellence against Hunger (WFP Brazil CoE) is a partnership between WFP and the Government of Brazil that allows making the experience of Brazil – and other countries - in addressing the Zero Hunger Challenge available to other developing countries for learning, sharing and adaptation through South-South and triangular cooperation. The Centre advocates for developing nationally owned, sustainable programmes and policies for school feeding, social protection and nutrition improvement. It aims to support WFP offices and their host-governments to create long-term, lasting solutions to defeat hunger and poverty by building local skills and knowledge, promoting food and nutrition security through school feeding programmes, and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The WFP Brazil CoE’s methodology draws on the experiences from Brazil and other countries in school feeding and on the WFP vision to reduce hunger among school children through capacity development and technical assistance to national governments. The methodology addresses specific areas of school feeding and how they work with social protection and zero-hunger strategies. It focuses first on policy goals, including the legal and political framework, institutional capacity and coordination, ability to design and implement programmes, funding capacity, and the participation of the local community and civil society. Once this groundwork has been done, the Centre uses a set of tools to facilitate policy dialogue, planning and capacity development processes, which include study visits, national workshops, and technical missions and assistance.
The Centre has broadened its knowledge-sharing and capacity development activities with developing countries through South-South and triangular cooperation. Technical missions, workshops, training and national consultations took place with governments in the process of strengthening national and sustainable policies on food and nutrition security, especially home-grown school feeding integrated with social protection and inclusive growth.
Spearheading WFP’s South-South Cooperation delivery on the ground is at the heart of WFP Brazil’s agenda. WFP Brazil CoE acknowledges the importance of regional cooperation and coordination in their sustainable national school feeding programmes. This fosters the most important effect of horizontal SSTC: programme implementation, delivery and ownership.
The Centre’s multisectoral approach and method mean that partners can unite to tackle multiple development goals through the adaptation of home-grown school feeding programmes specific to local country contexts. The strong capacity development and national ownership components of the Centre’s methodology ensure the long-term sustainability of programmes once they have taken root locally. The Centre’s work has made an impact at both country and regional levels in the forms of national policy reforms (school feeding policies), regional cooperation, regional strategy reforms and regional agreements.
The school feeding programme experience of Brazil is an inspiration and a global benchmark, as proven by its progressive expansion and replication in many developing countries through their own adaptation of the initiative. Factors critical for success are adequate funding and a multisectoral approach by governments.
The Government of Brazil and WFP are the implementing partners. The Government of Brazil provides funds and technical expertise and WFP provides experience and a presence in over 80 countries. Other donors fund the documenting of lessons learned, monitoring and evaluation, and nutrition.
Some results achieved over the years:
- 54 African countries committed to investing in school feeding, through the African Union
- Over USD 16 million mobilized for national governments to invest in school feeding by countries only in 2020
- Dozens of countries benefitting from continued technical assistance from the WFP CoE Brazil
- 18 countries developing national school feeding policies, 100% of partner countries consider that the WFP CoE Brazil’s exchanges and capacity strengthening activities are relevant and responsive to their needs
- 52% of the countries supported consider WFP CoE Brazil the main partner of choice for South-South cooperation and school feeding
- WFP CoE Brazil is present in 37% of WFP’s Country Strategic Plans, for capacity strengthening, technical assistance and South-South cooperation
- Economies from countries with child undernutrition suffer an estimated annual loss equivalent to 1.9% to 16.5% of GDP (in Africa)
- School feeding is a profitable investment presenting a benefit-cost ration ranging from 3:1 to 10:1 in the field
- WFP CoE Brazil’s technical and remote assistance and capacity strengthening activities can benefit more than 4 million school-going children and thousands of smallholder farmers participating in school feeding programmes
Beyond Cotton project
The Beyond Cotton project is a joint initiative of WFP CoE Brazil and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, with the support of the Brazilian Cotton Institute. Its objective is to support smallholder cotton farmers and public institutions in African countries in linking cotton by-products and intercropped crops – such as corn, sorghum and beans – to safe markets, including school feeding programmes. The objective is to increase production, local income and food and nutritional security for smallholder farmers.
In 2019, the Centre launched its Virtual Exchanges portfolio, which is a set of tools that enable most of the work to take place remotely. In order to guarantee the continuity of activities with the countries, the Centre's activities are not limited to face-to-face technical support - as is the case with study visits to Brazil and missions. Much of this work is done through daily and continuous contact with countries. Remote Support consists of remote and continuous communication with each supported country, through the provision of political advice, advocacy work with governments, information sharing, and the joint elaboration or review of documents - such as bills, development, national strategies and school feeding programme documents. Especially for times of crisis or emergencies, WFP CoE Brazil’s Remote Assistance provides means for local WFP staff to remain concentrated on operational and delivery topics while WFP Brazil continues systemic approaches and tailors these approaches for daily Regional Bureaus and Country Offices operations in the field.