In 2004, with the backing of the African Union and World Food Programme, Nigeria was part of the first wave of countries to implement a new and innovative Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme pilot.
Employing the legislation of the Universal Basic Education Act the Federal Government rolled out a pilot scheme in 13 of the country states to implement school feeding programmes which supported agricultural development by procuring and using locally grown food. Jump forward 10 years and only two states, Osun and Kano, are still feeding their school children.
During this decade, the Osun State HGSF programme, known locally as O-Meals, has gone from strength to strength, serving up over 250,000 hot, nutritious and locally sourced meals every school day. The positive impact of this has been felt not only in the schools where enrolments have gone up by 28%, but also by the state's economy which has benefited from over 3,000 new jobs being created in the school feeding supply chain and over 600 poultry farmers, 2,000 fish farmers and 2,000 cocoyam farmers among others supplying the programme.
The Osun State Government's development of school feeding has benefited from the technical advice and support provided by Imperial College London's Partnership for Child Development (PCD). PCD in partnership with the World Bank and WFP has been providing directed, evidence based support for the design and management of school feeding programmes linked to agricultural production.
Outside the states of Osun and Kano the success and popularity of school feeding has not gone un-noticed by other states and the Federal Government. Nigeria's policy makers began to start looking to Osun and Kano State to better understand how their programmes could be implemented and scaled up in other Nigerian states.
At the federal level, the Ministry of Agriculture, keen to harness the structured demand provided by schools, has actively sought to outline clear action plans to promote school feeding as part of Nigeria's Agriculture Transformation Agenda.
High level engagement
On 19 May 2014, to help channel and co-ordinate this re-newed interest in HGSF, the Federal Ministry of Education are convening a special high level inter-ministerial roundtable meeting in Abuja. The Minister of Education, Honorable Ezenwo Nyesom Wike has invited his counterparts from the Ministries of Agriculture and Health and development partners from PCD, World Bank, WFP and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and representatives of the Osun and Kano state school feeding programmes, to identify ways to develop the policies and financial frameworks necessary to support the growth of HGSF in Nigeria.
Immediately following this meeting a technical workshop in Osun, hosted by the State's Governor H. E. Rauf Aregbesola, will be held for States keen to learn from Osun's expertise in running sustainable HGSF programmes.
The evidence base shows successful national school feeding programmes are typically the result of a period of transition in which the government has acquired the capacity to manage and implement a large scale programme. During this transition a strong policy framework, government financial and institutional capacity and a strong link with local agricultural production are important factors. Osun State and Kano State are stand out examples of what can be achieved in more of Nigeria's schools.