Over 78,000 farmers in Ghana, Kenya and Mali will gain access to new markets and improve their livelihoods and incomes, while millions of children will receive better nutrition through their schools through the Connect Local Agriculture to Schools Supply programme.
Implemented by SNV and funded by a $7.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Mali, Ghana and Kenya, the four-year Connect Local Agriculture to Schools Supply programme (CLASS) was launched on April 12, 2012.
The launching ceremony was held with the participation of representatives of the ministries of Education and Agriculture and their related departments, representatives of the programme’s technical and financial partners (World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, Partnership for Child Development, etc.) and civil society organisations.
SNV’s key role in the CLASS programme consists of capacity building for actors involved in the school feeding chain. School feeding is a priority for the authorities of Mali, as has been illustrated by the operation of a national school feeding programme since September 2009.
The project supports national school feeding programmes in their efforts to use locally and domestically produced food by improving the capacity of smallholder farmers to effectively participate as suppliers to these programmes. It also aims to create the conditions needed to improve enrolment and retention of children (both girls and boys) in school. The objective of the launch was to inform CLASS stakeholders about the programme’s implementation, as well as to obtain feedback from participants on the criteria used to select the 15 municipalities in Banamba, Kolokani, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Nara districts in which the intervention will take place
The programme in Mali will benefit about 6,000 smallholders and 10,000 school children. The programme’s four lead objectives are:
• Strengthen the procurement process and the ability of all stakeholders to ensure the access of small farmers to school feeding markets.
• Strengthen the governance of the chain to ensure an effective, transparent and accountable supply;
• Develop effective and participatory mechanisms for an increased accountability of those involved in school feeding;
• Ensure effective monitoring and documentation of lessons learned for wider dissemination to increase the probability of replication / scaling up best practices.
Key expected results of the programme are:
• Creation of a database on the access of smallholder farmers to markets;
• Increase the quantity of food purchased from smallholder farmers for school feeding;
• Existence of procurement strategy including smallholder farmers in 15 municipalities;
• In 15 municipalities, 50% of supply contracts include smallholder farmers;
• The feeding programme evaluation process includes local communities in 15 municipalities;
• The project experiences are shared in national forum.
However, several challenges remain in the framework of the implementation of the national policy on school feeding, including the expansion and sustainability of school canteens in all schools in Mali, good governance management of canteens, canteen supply with local products, and capacity building of all actors involved in school feeding programme including the National Centre for School Canteens.
In closing the CLASS launch ceremony, the Director of the National Centre for School Canteens congratulated SNV for its support.
“With the security crisis and current food insecurity in the country, such programmes are welcome. School canteens are a powerful factor of development. We welcome SNV, " he said.