In Ecuador there are nutritional problems derived from poor dietary diversity and high consumption of carbohydrates and fats, with little protein and micronutrients. On the other hand, small holders, many of whom are women, lack access to markets and face unstable livelihoods. Constraints include small product volumes, long distances to market, high transport costs, lack of quality control, lack of education and limited capacity to negotiate a fair price. Currently social protection programs, such as school meals, are inaccessible markets for most small holders. Women face gender bias and lack of empowerment and are generally not involved in decision making, especially in rural areas and indigenous communities.
WFP signed an agreement with the Provincial Government in Quito to provide support to the Pichincha Province in improving this situation. The objective is to enhance local capabilities to work for food and nutrition security, including diet diversification for preschool and school age children and other vulnerable groups.
Through a participative process with the local government, this project seeks to develop capacities and generate models to address key challenges in food and nutrition security. WFP will support the provincial government in initiatives to complement community school feeding activities with fresh produce from small holders. The challenge is to develop a feasible local procurement model which provides nutritious quality food at an affordable price through decentralized supply chains in the Pichincha Province.
The project aims to link local small farmers´ organizations with schools. This component has two overarching goals: to diversify children’s diet and improve farmers’ livelihoods by facilitating sustainable markets for their products. It will support local capabilities to implement innovative nutrition packages to improve dietary diversity and micronutrient status of children, women, and vulnerable groups. In addition, the project intends to catalyze small holder participation to leverage public and private markets, in particular local safety-net programs. For food assistance transfers,the project will use vouchers, a modality that has been shown positive results in other WFP projects in Ecuador. In all activities, WFP will promote women empowerment and participation.
Participants include indigenous groups, vulnerable mothers, adolescent women, school and preschool aged children, and small holder farmers with limited access to markets, suffering from anaemia and micronutrient deficiency and lacking dietary diversity. The Government of Pichincha has been closely involved in project design and cost sharing is an integral element of the strategy. Pichincha will provide infrastructure, health and odontology services, among others.
Despite growing international interest in this type of home-grown approach, to date there are no empirical data on the benefits and cost-effectiveness of these programs, particularly their impact on the local economy, children’s nutritional status, and on increasing the incomes of small holder farmers.
WFP will conduct baseline and final evaluations to measure programme impacts on dietary diversity and anaemia, small holders’ incomes and educational achievements. The project’s results will be measured in terms of improved nutritional status of preschool- and school- age children, diversified diets and decreased parasite load levels, increased knowledge and capacities in food and nutrition security and programme management, especially among local governments, women, and indigenous communities; empowerment of women and indigenous peoples, increased incomes for small holders, improved academic achievement of primary school children and improved access to clean water.