Under the lens of embeddedness: a social-cultural perspective on home-grown school feeding in Ghana – PhD-thesis by Nashiru Sulemana

June 2, 2016 at 11.00 a.m. Nashiru Sulemana will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Under the lens of embeddedness; A social-cultural perspective on home-grown school feeding in Ghana‘ in the auditorium of Wageningen University.

The defence ceremony will be streamed live by WURTV but can be viewed later as well. The thesis will be available at WUR-Library after the ceremony has been concluded.

The PhD-thesis analysed how the activities and experiences of different actor groups involved in the implementation of the home-grown aspects of the Ghana school feeding programme enabled as well as constrained local food procurement that was expected to link the school feeding programme to local agricultural development. While the primary objective of any school feeding programme is first and foremost to provide adequate and nutritious food to school children, efforts at employing the power of procurement under home-grown school feeding to benefit local agricultural development have been considered as ‘win-win’ in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in developing countries like Ghana. The assumptions that underpin these ‘win-win’ notions of home-grown school feeding, however, ignore the socio-cultural relationships that anchor the everyday activities and experiences of the actors involved in the implementation of the programme. The thesis, therefore, conceptualized home-grown school feeding as a problem of embeddedness and showed how socio-cultural relationships in the activities and experiences of school level governance actors, school food caterers, local food traders and smallholders enabled as well as constrained local food procurement efforts.

A school meal in Dois Irmáos (2)

Municipal garden farmer explains

The Brazilian School Food Program underwent a lot of changes and, as posted earlier, the biggest change is related to localisation of the school meals. Previously, national menu’s with national tendering contract for enormous quantities to which only big companies were able to bid competitively were what the program was about. To give an idea, for 2010 the estimation was a total school food procurement market of 3 billion dollar providing food for 47 million students. Now cities and municipalities are responsible for contract tendering and supply selection. This has created opportunities to shorten the food chain although many municipalities still follow the logic of mass production and long supply chains (Triches and Schneider 2010). Therefore, additional Law 11947 created the rule that 30% of fresh produce has to come from the ‘family farm’.

Opportunities, but it has also created challenges. At municipal level, capacity is now assumed for things like the nutritional balance of menu’s based on local products, the legal process of tendering and supplier selection with many more suppliers and overseeing the many other issues such as logistics. Not all municipalities do have this capacity yet. Equally, not all ‘family farmers’ are equipped to supply particular quantities and collaborate with colleague farmers to meet demand.

However, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul many good examples can be found too. One of these is the school food program in the city of Dois Irmáos (see also Triches and Schneider 2010 in Portuguese). The municipality created a municipal ‘huerta’, a vegetable production garden which produces almost all greens for the school meals. Furthermore in collaboration with Rural Extension a pool of 160 family farmers is working with the program. Every 6 months, the municipality calls a tender to buy its supply for the coming half a year. Each time, 10 to 15 farmers of this pool are selected to supply foods like potatoes, onions, milk and meat. Although the bureaucracy involved in this tendering process is one of the biggest problems, the family farmers are not subject to the same legal scrutiny as is normal for other products. Buying from family farmers is done through a separate program PAA (Food acquisition program) where a certificate is needed which proves that the farmer can be classified as a ‘family farmer’ but where the language is different and the product descriptions simpler such as ‘salad’ or ‘potato’ rather than a legal description. The after-school which we visited invested in its own meat-cutting room in response to buying fresh meat from local farmers. Local nutritional studies show that the children like the meat and other food better.

Evolution of Rural Development Paradigm in Brazil

In a recent research seminar prof. Sergio Schneider (schneide@ufrgs.br), coordinator of the  Rural Development Post Graduate Program from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), presented a telling analysis of major changes in Rural Developments Policies in Brazil in the last twenty years. He explained that the recent evolution in rural development policies, as effectuated by president Lula, has to be understood within the context the evident political struggles on land. Brazil is a large country with traditionally a sharp contrast between the interests of agro-industrial conglomerates and social rural movements of landless people and peasants (e.g. MST).

This is reflected in a dualist agrarian structure between capitalist and entrepreneurial family farming and peasant familiy farming and rural poor (landless) who are struggling for survival and autonomy. In 1995 1 % of the owners with more then 1000 ha owned 45% of all land, while 90% of the owners with less then 100 ha owned only 20%. An unexpected and striking consequence of rural poverty is, that food security in rural areas is significantly lower then in urban areas. In rural areas 26% of the housholds suffers severe food insecurity versus 17% in urban areas. Because of this dualist agrarian structure Brazil is probably the only country in the world with two Ministries of Agriculture, serving different needs.

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