Program of Brazil-FAO International Cooperation

Exchange of experiences in family farming brings together more than 100 participants from 17 countries

Presentations addressed successful experiences in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru.

Brasília, Brazil, March 26, 2024 - More than 100 professionals linked to school feeding programmes (SFP) from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean participated on March 21 in an online exchange of experiences on mechanisms to strengthen public procurement in school feeding.

The virtual event was promoted by the FAO Representation in El Salvador and the Food Coalition, with the support of the Sustainable School Feeding Network (RAES). The RAESis a strategy driven by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ABC/MRE) and the National Fund for Educational Development of the Ministry of Education (FNDE/MEC) of Brazil, with the support of FAO, through the project Regional Agenda for Sustainable School Feeding in Latin America and the Caribbean, under the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation Programme.

Vincenzo Cursio, coordinator of the Food Coalition, commented that this organization is working to foster collaborations among different stakeholders, seeking to act on proposals that will address specific challenges in the field, such as school feeding programmes.

In 2021, the governments of Colombia, Ecuador, and El Salvador, through FAO representations and in conjunction with national governments, expressed interest in developing the project "Strengthening school feeding programmes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic," which combines efforts to strengthen the SFP through the Sustainable Schools methodology, to contribute to the guarantee of the human right to adequate food. The three countries have the support of the Food Coalition in implementing this methodology, which was developed by the Brazil-FAO International Cooperation in 2012 and is already present in 14 countries.

Plinio Pereira, on behalf of ABC/MRE, commented that RAES is an innovative regional instrument to strengthen institutional and human capacities to enable the continuity of a joint and supportive journey towards changes and advances in the direction of the human right to food. He mentioned that 26 countries participate in RAES activities, such as seminars, events, and training to exchange knowledge. Finally, he added that Brazil's presidency in the G20 in 2024 opens up cooperation opportunities, as the country is proposing the creation of a global alliance to address hunger and combat poverty.

The role of Sustainable Schools

Carolina Mejía, director of social programmes at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology of El Salvador, valued the support of international cooperation and added that the experience of Sustainable Schools "has been a reference in the implementation of sustainable SFP, especially through inter-institutional articulation, involvement of the educational community, adoption of healthy menus, implementation of pedagogical school gardens, construction of kitchens and warehouses, as well as direct purchases from family farming school feeding." She also commented that strengthening institutional capacities and developing legal frameworks to implement school feeding were decisive in the country. "This has shown that a collective and institutional effort is necessary to achieve the objectives of SFP."

Climate change, public procurement, and school feeding

Israel Ríos, nutrition officer at the FAO, gave a presentation on the link between climate change and school feeding. Israel commented that to address the challenges of climate change, which damages production, increases the cost of food production and consumption, comprehensive and multisectoral policies are required, such as school feeding. He mentioned that it is very important to collect data and involve decision-makers in public policy dialogues, academia, parliamentarians, and other high-level managers.

Najla Veloso, coordinator of the regional school feeding project of the Brazil-FAO Cooperation, explained that climate change leads to the loss of livelihoods for families due to the decrease in agricultural productivity and the deterioration of natural resources, such as soils, freshwater, and local biodiversity. In that sense, she affirmed that public procurement is a viable alternative because it guarantees: i) planning of agricultural production; ii) income for smallholder farmers; iii) better quality and quantity of products; iv) adoption of diversified production; v) promotion of the use of biofertilizers and pest control; vi) alternation of products and better use of soil; vii) reduction of losses and waste.

As obstacles to the implementation of public procurement, she highlighted: i) absence of legal guidelines; ii) need for management and planning of the short circuits of consumption and production; iii) lack of production mapping; iv) lack of access roads; v) informality in organizational processes; vi) connectivity difficulties; vii) logistical barriers; viii) gaps in information channels and access to the internet.

Experiences from countries

Luis Enrique Alonso, from the General Directorate of Community Participation and Support Services of the Ministry of Education of Guatemala, detailed the country's public procurement experience, noting that the law is one of the country's strengths. Guatemala's School Feeding Law determines that 70% of products come from local family farming. Alonso also cited the role of parent organizations - legally constituted community groups with legal personality - for the simplified execution of public procurement. As challenges, he mentioned improving infrastructure for food preparation and the presence of more farmers offering products to the SFP.

Ana Carolina Silva, from the family farming division of the PNAE of Brazil, executed by FNDE, presented 10 steps for purchasing family farming products: i) budget verification; ii) articulation with social actors; iii) definition of the school menu; iv) definition of purchase prices; v) public call notice; vi) preparation of the sales project; vii) reception and selection of sales projects; viii) presentation of product samples; iv) contract; v) receipt and payment document.

Carolina Ramírez González, from the FAO Representation in Peru, commented on advances in the SFP in the country, such as the Sustainable Schools pilot in the Junín region with public procurement through the school feeding committee. She added that internships for local government professionals were developed in this territory with a view to scaling the methodology. She also said that the state food procurement law of family farming origin, in 2020, was an important advance.

Reina Maria Osorio, from the FAO Representation in El Salvador, concluded by commenting that there are currently multiple challenges that increase the cost of food and affect the nutrition and livelihoods of populations. She added that school feeding can be a successful policy to address these challenges and promote the transformation of agri-food systems.