Zero Hunger through sustainable solutions

Blog post by Daniel Balaban,
Director of the WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger
The WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger promotes sustainable solutions to attain food security and nutrition. Using the Brazilian experience as reference, the Centre’s record in the past few years evidences an increasing number of countries moving towards the Zero Hunger goal.
School children having lunch, as part of Brazil’s National School Feeding Program. Photo: WFP/Isadora Ferreira

School children having lunch, as part of Brazil’s National School Feeding Program. Photo: WFP/Isadora Ferreira

Brazil’s strategy to combat hunger

In just over a decade, Brazil has made outstanding headway to overcome hunger and promote food security through its Zero Hunger Strategy (ZHS). Since the launch of the strategy in 2003, the promotion of food and nutrition security became a priority for the Brazilian government, who has improved the outreach and effectiveness of its public policies.

The Zero Hunger Strategy revolves around two main axis: access to food and strengthening of family farming. One of the most prominent accomplishments of the strategy was the boost on Brazil’s school feeding programme, which now connects both elements of the strategy. Brazil has the second largest school feeding programme in the world, serving 44 million students with at least one meal a day during the school year. As of 2009, the law regulating the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE in Portuguese) has recognised school feeding as a right, and determined that it should be linked to family agriculture: at least 30% of the funds must be spent in food purchased from smallholder farmers.

The link between school feeding and family farming is considered to be a groundbreaking strategy to combat hunger and poverty, as well as to promote food and nutrition security. It tackles a wide range of areas, such as education, health, social and economic development, and agriculture, with short, medium and long-term benefits. As it is widely recognised, school feeding contributes to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease dropouts, and develop the cognitive ability of children. Through the purchase quota for family farmers, school feeding becomes an incentive for local agricultural and market developments by providing a stable demand for local food production, increasing income and resilience of smallholder farmers, and improving their livelihoods.

Creating a new channel for South-South cooperation

The success of Brazil’s recent experience in poverty reduction has given rise to global interest in the Brazilian model, including in the legal, institutional and financial frameworks that guide it. The WFP Centre of Excellence was established in 2011 to respond to this demand by facilitating South-South cooperation and by providing advice and technical assistance on programmes against hunger and poverty, mainly through school feeding.

Photo: WFP/Isadora Ferreira

Photo: WFP/Isadora Ferreira

Since its creation, the Centre of Excellence has supported governments to reduce hunger among schoolchildren through the promotion of school feeding programs that are: targeted, nutritious, cost-effective and use locally produced foods to the widest possible extent. To date, the Centre has received 33 countries in study visits, 18 of which are in different stages of developing homegrown school feeding initiatives. Over the past three years we have witnessed numerous efforts to put into practice ambitious plans in this field. Enlisted below are some examples of countries who have made important strides towards the eradication of hunger.

Strengthening National Policies on Food Security

The Gambia has been moving quickly to build up policies to eliminate hunger. The government has stated its full commitment to the fight against malnutrition at the launch of the initiative “Improving Food Security through Crop Production Intensification and School Feeding Programme in The Gambia”. Important schemes such as the “Back to the Land” and “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat” were set up to invest in family farming production. Following a visit to Brazil in February 2014, the government has launched two processes to strengthen school feeding and social protection. These topics were the focus of two national consultations held in early December, where broad dialogue with stakeholders and further commitments were established.

Rwanda has made advances in its social policies and agriculture innovation. As a partner country to the WFP Centre of Excellence since 2011, Rwanda has benefited from this collaboration to support the design of its White Paper for Social Policies. Similarly, Zambia has recently expressed its commitment to initiate a Zero Hunger especially in the design of a policy framework. After a visit to the WFP Centre of Excellence in the end of 2013, Zambia’s government developed an action plan to create and implement its home-grown school feeding programme.

Mali has already committed to a national school feeding policy. Since 2011, when collaboration with the WFP Centre of Excellence started, there have been regional dissemination workshops about the national policy on school meals for all regions of the country. The result of these meetings was used to start a draft law. The country is currently going through a period of instability, but school feeding has been responsible for keeping children in school. For the future, the strategy is to launch a school development plan and a review of education. The Centre of Excellence will also support the organisation of a national consultation.

In Pakistan, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research launched the Zero Hunger Programme in June 2013, inspired by a bilateral visit of Brazilian officials in the previous year. The Programme focuses on the right to food and smallholder agriculture. In 2014, a ministerial delegation from Pakistan visited the WFP Centre of Excellence to understand better practical elements of Brazil’s social programs. The Centre of Excellence is currently supporting the further development of Pakistan’s Zero Hunger Programme through a consultant.

Bangladesh is another case of political commitment to step up the breadth and quality of its school feeding scheme. Following a visit to Brazil, the government launched a pilot project in partnership with the WFP to provide hot meals in schools. The programme counts with the strong involvement of local communities, and purchases food from local women farmers. It has resulted in the replacement of fortified biscuits for hot meals in several schools around the country.

Although each of these countries is at different stages of policy elaboration and implementation, these examples demonstrate a renewed impetus to the eradication of hunger worldwide. The Centre of Excellence is committed to support additional efforts in this area, and to assist countries to forge home-grown and sustainable solutions to achieve zero hunger.