The purpose of the study originates in a 2016 AU Assembly decision (Assembly/AU/Dec 589), in which it called for the establishment of a multi-sectoral technical committee to support the development of sustainable school feeding programmes. The Assembly also requested the African Union Commission (AUC) to conduct an analysis of how school feeding contributes to inclusive, quality education in the AU, and how it facilitates progress across a range of sectors, including education, nutrition, health, and agriculture and local development. Ultimately, this research supports the AU in generating entry point recommendations that enable member states to optimise their programmatic efforts in school feeding. To implement the Assembly’s decision, the AUC and the WFP Centre of Excellence, the AU’s partner for this development goal, commissioned the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), a global institute based in Cape Town, South Africa, to conduct the study.
Furthermore the Heads of State and Government of the AU, in a landmark decision during the 2016 AU Assembly, established the 1st of March as the African School Feeding Day. This decision further recognized school feeding as an important instrument for ensuring inclusive development, health, rural development, gender equality, and inclusion in education, especially for poor, socially marginalised and economically constrained communities.
Home-grown school feeding (HGSF) programmes, in particular, are gaining traction, as they aim to promote local economic development and agricultural transformation through establishing linkages between the school feeding programme’s demand for food and the supply of locally grown food. In response to the burgeoning popularity of school feeding programmes across Africa, and aimed at supporting youth-focused under the African Union’s (AU) 2017 Theme Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth, the AU has intensified its support to member states in the design and implementation of national school feeding programmes.
As a way to link Agenda 2063 and the SDGs, and to provide a strategic framework for the education and skills revolution called for by Agenda 2063, the AU adopted the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25) as a regional operationalisation framework for SDG number 4 (“ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”). Within a set of guiding principles, pillars and strategic objectives for member states, CESA 16-25 identifies some initiatives already in place on the continent as being vital to the improvement of education and training. In particular, to achieve CESA’s strategic objective (“build, rehabilitate, preserve education infrastructure and develop policies that ensure a permanent, healthy and conducive learning environment in all sub-sectors and for all, so as to expand access to quality education”), the AU identifies strengthening school feeding as a critical point.
Parallel to these international, institutional demarches, South-South and triangular cooperation became tools for linking development initiatives to international, continental and national development agendas. This modality of cooperation facilitates connections and networks for learning from successful experiences and best practices from the Global South to optimise local socio-political impacts advancements. Responding to this, the AU, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the government of Brazil – which is a benchmark for the successful implementation of a national school feeding programme linked to local agriculture and integrated into wider food and nutrition security strategies – have established partnerships to generate and disseminate knowledge, provide technical assistance and strengthen national policies in a range of sectors, including education, nutrition, health, agriculture and local development, on the African continent.
For operationalising these activities in Africa, WFP and the Brazilian Government partnered for the creation in Brazil in 2011 of WFP’s first Centre of Excellence against Hunger (hereafter referred to as the “WFP Centre of Excellence”). Supporting governments in realising the Agenda 2030, the WFP Centre of Excellence became a global hub for South-South cooperation and knowledge building, capacity development and policy dialogue on food and nutrition security, social protection and school meals. It supports countries in their efforts towards establishing, enhancing and expanding HGSF programmes as interventions integrated into policies and programming on social protection and food and nutrition security, and for strengthening structured demand for local and smallholder farming.
To this end, this study aims to capitalise on the exchange of knowledge and ideas through increased South-South engagement vis-à-vis school feeding by presenting evidence on and real-life examples of innovations in school feeding programmes across the AU. This study organises and analyses an array of empirical data in order to construct a high-level landscaping of the state of school feeding in Africa, a conceptual framework for sustainable school feeding and a set of entry point recommendations enabling AU member states to advance their programmatic efforts in school feeding and achieve the development goals mentioned in Agenda 2063, CESA 16-25 and the SDGs.