Political will and multi-sectorial coordination can make a huge difference. With this impression and full of inspiration, the members of the African Union delegation left Brazil last Friday after a one-week study visit to discuss school feeding as a key strategy to promote development.
“Being in Brazil was a great opportunity and we took the most of it”, said at the closing session the head of the delegation, Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga, African union’s Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology.
The Commissioner announced that the next steps will be presenting the results of the mission in Brazil to the African ministers of Education, Agriculture, and Social Affairs, at the ministerial meeting that will happen in October this year. The objective is for the African Union to take ownership of the issue and to adopt a continental initiative on school feeding. To achieve this goal, the Commissioner announced that the African Union will formalize a cooperation agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence against Hunger.
“This is probably the most important moment of the four years of the Centre of Excellence against Hunger. Up to now, we have been working individually with each country, many of them African countries. With this partnership with the African Union, we will count on a continental leadership that will boost our mobilization capacity and the reach of our work. We hope to see very soon the entire African continent investing in national school feeding programmes”, said the director of the Centre of Excellence, Daniel Balaban.
Trip to Brazil
Delegation visits rural school
Photo: WFP/Mariana Rocha
The African union delegation was in Brasília from 22 to 30 August to see first-hand the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE). The study visit was organized by the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger, the WFP African Union, WFP Niger, and the WFP Regional Office in Dakar. It counted on the participation of 17 countries of the African Union, besides representatives of the World Food Programme.
During the week, the group met the Brazilian minister of Social Development and Fight against hunger, Tereza Campello. “We live a moment of fraternal closeness with Africa and we have plenty to share among our countries”, said Ms. Campello. She highlighted the importance of political will and of simple solutions to overcome hunger. She mentioned the Brazilian experience of procuring food produced by smallholder farmers to supply the school feeding programme as an example of an effective and successful way to achieve food security. The acquisition of food from smallholder farmers for the school feeding programme is determined by law in Brazil and it promotes local development and boost the country’s economy.
“It is possible to change, it is possible not to treat hunger and poverty as natural. The State has to step up, if we don’t stablish this priority as a government’s goal nothing can be done”, added Ms. Campello.
Later, at the Ministry of Agrarian Development, the delegation was received by the acting minister, Maria Fernanda Ramos Coelho, and had the opportunity to know details of the Food Acquisition Programme (PAA), which buys food from smallholder farmers and distributes to social assistance institutions that take care of vulnerable or food insecure populations.
At the Ministry of Education, the acting minister, Luiz Claudio Costa, reminded the delegation that the school feeding programme in Brazil also started with a model based on international aid, with partners such as WFP, UNICEF and USAID, back in the 1950’s, and moved to a national model only in the 1990’s.
Costa also highlighted the importance of the partnerships between Brazil and African countries. “We have learned a great deal with the African countries and we have provided support to the development of technical capacities in the continent”, he said. According to him, after overcoming hunger, Brazil’s next challenge is to fight obesity, growing fast in the country. “We are assessing the possibility of launching a healthy school canteens programme, to ban fried food and soft drinks from all the schools, including the private ones”.
The delegation participated in two field trips near Brasília. In Formosa, in Goiás state, the visited a rural school, where they were greeted with a map of Africa drawn on the floor by the students. Following this visit, they went to a city school, to understand how the education system works in Brazil and to witness the distribution of school feeding to the students.
“I would like to say that our delegation does represents not only the countries present here. It represents the African Union. The entire Africa. We hope to be up to everything that we are going to see. We hope that the tree that was planted here can also be planted in Africa, said Dr. Ikounga at the school.
On the following day, the delegation went to a land reform settlement called Contagem, where they visited the rural property of Antonio and Maria das Dores Silva. The couple lives in the settlement for 16 years and they raise pigs and chicken and grow cassava, fruits and vegetables, besides producing honey. Part of their production is bought by the school feeding programme.
“Here we live in better conditions than in the city. I am a mother, a housewife, but I am also starting a bakery shop close to here”, Maria das Dores told. She is the president of the women association of the Contagem settlement. Thanks to the efforts of the association, the community managed to get a bus to make sure that youths and adults can attend classes.
“We already knew that the Brazilian women are famous for their beauty, but today we saw that besides being beautiful they are also hard workers. We are very impressed by their engagement and their capacity to act to change their lives and their communities”, said the head of the delegation, Dr. Ikounga.
Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the African Union, at the closing ceremony
Photo: WFP/Isadora Ferreira
“School feeding is a social project that goes beyond education. What we saw here will help us establish similar initiatives in our countries and in the continental level. All of this happens through the support of the Centre of Excellence, which engaged us in the school feeding discussions”, said the minister of Education of Niger, Ms. Ali Mariama Elhadji Ibrahim.
Thomas Yanga, director of the WFP office for Africa, said that this visit to Brazil is just the beginning of a great change that has to be put in place in the entire African continent. “Our countries can more! Through the knowledge we already have and the knowledge that we can still acquire, we can feed our children”.
Alhaji Limuna Mohammed-Muniru, northern regional minister of Agriculture of Ghana, said that this trip to Brazil was an eye-opener. “We already witnessed the multiple benefits of school feeding in Ghana. We hope to achieve good results in one specific area, but once we start to implement a school feeding programme we realize that we are solving many problems at once”.
The minister of Agriculture of Zimbabwe, Joseph Mtekwese Made, emphasized the gratitude of the whole group for the opportunity of coming to Brazil and learning about the Brazilian experiences. “We felt home and we were able to express our concerns”.
The chief of the delegation. Dr. Ikounga, thanked all participants of the mission, especially the ministers that attended the study visit. “We know how difficult it is to be absent of you miniter’s functions during an entire week”. He informed that the African Union, in partnership with the WFP Centre of Excellence and other WFP offices working in Africa, will conduct a study about the pertinence and the impact of school feeding all over Africa, to provide inputs for a continental initiative in school feeding.