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In Kenya, 47 per cent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. High levels of malnutrition afflict the country’s poorest people. In the arid and semi-arid areas, around 369,000 children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition, with peaks of one in three in the most affected areas. Undernutrition is a leading cause of death among children under the age of 5.1
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the World Food Programme (WFP) works with the Kenyan Government to implement programmes designed to promote greater food security. Since 2009, WFP has worked with the Government of Kenya to facilitate the handover of its school meals programme (involving several thousand schools) to the Government and support the transition to a national home-grown school meals model.
Kenya’s national home-grown school meals programme contributes to improving child health and nutrition by linking schools and local agricultural production. This is done by transferring funds to schools, enabling them to purchase food directly from local suppliers and farmers.
The Kenyan home-grown school meals programme has several objectives that fall into two categories: (i) increasing local food production and promoting small-scale farmers’ access to markets; and (ii) improving school enrolment, attendance, and completion.
After the transition to the government-led home-grown school meals programme, in 2012, the Ministry of Education of Kenya asked WFP for assistance to expand the programme into Kenyas arid land areas. In response, WFP implemented a Transitional Cash Transfer to Schools pilot project in Isiolo County. WFP and the Government of Kenya also started looking at options to introduce fresh foods into school meals. Several fresh food pilots in Nairobi county are underway, reaching almost 80,000 students in 91 schools.
In 2016, the government-led home-grown school meals programme targeted 950,000 children in both arid and semi-arid counties. At the same time, WFP continued to provide school meals for 430,000 children in the arid land areas and targeted schools in the informal settlements in Nairobi that are not yet covered by the home-grown school meals programme. To support the programme’s expansion, WFP also prepared schools in Nairobi, Tana River and parts of Turkana to transition to the home-grown model, involving another 152,000 children.
In Kenya’s home-grown school meals model, funds are transferred from the National Treasury to the Ministry of Education and then to school accounts. Each school meals programme committee, composed of four teachers and four parents, issues a call for tenders and buys food from local suppliers (traders or farmers) with a school mealsbank account. This model is used in both rural and urban areas, linking smallholder farmers and traders to schools in both contexts. The programme is transitioning from a WFP-led to a Government-led programme. In 2016, over 60 per cent of school meals served were managed by the Government.
The Kenyan home-grown school meals programme was evaluated by an external evaluator in mid-2014, who found that schools had received a total of KES. 2.2 billion (USD 21 million) for local food procurement between 2009 and 2014 under the programme. These results show how effectively school meals turned into a major market opportunity for local farmers.
The programme has long served as an inspiration to other developing countries, particularly peers in the region. For example, Namibia and Zambia, with support from WFP as South-South cooperation broker (particularly WFPs Regional Bureaus in Johannesburg and Nairobi), engaged in a cross-regional peer learning initiative in 2016 on home-grown school meals programmes.
Apart from learning from Kenya’s model, the participating countries also used this opportunity to exchange experiences on monitoring and evaluating national school meals programmes. For example, Namibia presented its innovative Namibian School Feeding Programme Information System technology, which promotes immediate improvements in the management of the national school meals systems. Among other things, this platform: (1) enhances data capture, analysis and reporting and ensures data consistency; (2) enables linkage between suppliers and schools; (3) ensures accountability on food deliveries, food use and waste; (4) generates automatic reports and graphical visualizations; and, (5) offers a basis for timely and quality decision-making, and resource mobilization.
Beyond engaging in South-South exchanges with peers in the region, Kenya also participated in a South-South study visit to Brazil. A delegation from the Government of Kenya visited Brazil in May 2016 to learn about Brazilian initiatives in school meals, social protection and Zero Hunger. This journey informed the preparation of Kenya’s National School Meals and Nutrition Strategy, which was launched in 2017.
The Kenyan home-grown school meals programme has proved to be sustainable at many levels:
- National Ownership: the Government leads the school meals programme and is taking on increasing responsibility for funding the scheme. By 2019, Kenya could have one of the largest locally-procured and fully government-financed school meals programmes in Africa;
- Community Engagement: school management committees administer and manage implementation of the home-grown school meals programmes at the school level. Since local procurement is the fundamental feature of this school meals model, local investment and engagement with the programme are high; and
- High-level political engagement and budgetary support are essential in order to establish a truly government-led home-grown school meals programme in Kenya and in other countries.
Cash-based home-grown school meals programmes also require significant technical skills in order to replicate them, including:
- Market analysis;
- Coordination and partnership building;
- Project management;
- Experience within the relevant ministries (education and agriculture);
- Food procurement; and
- Monitoring and evaluation procedures in place.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.5, 4.6, 17.9
Countries/ territories involved: Brazil, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia
Supported by: Government of Kenya, WFP
Implementing entities: Government of Kenya Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2009-present
Name: Mr. Charles Njeru, School Meals Programme Officer, WFP Kenya Country Office