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Mozambique School Lunch Initiative

Developing home-grown school lunch programs to improve child nutrition and provide opportunities for local farmers.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Mozambique School Lunch Initiative

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Gaza Province, Mozambique

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I have been connected to Gaza Province, Mozambique ever since I started working there in 2013 with an international NGO. My two co-founders are also Mozambican and are from the very communities where we are developing home-grown school lunch programs. I am fluent in Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique, and have deep relationships with many Mozambican people. We selected this place because we had the local connections necessary to get started and also saw a grave need in the number of children dropping out of school due to hunger. We also empathized with the frustrations of local farmers who lamented the fact that other organizations would ship in food products to distribute food aid rather than invest in the productive capacity of local farmers. We decided to change this by harnessing the potential of local farmers as a long-term strategy to improving food security and nutrition.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Our model targets rural villages in Gaza Province, Mozambique, a region that has particularly high rates of food insecurity due to unpredictable agricultural conditions. In these villages, most families are subsistence farmers and children are vulnerable to seasonal fluctuations in food availability. The villages are located about an hour away, by dirt road, from the nearest small town and the primary school is the only major government touchpoint in each village. These areas do not have electricity and water comes from communal wells and streams. For agricultural production, most farmers rely on rainfall. There is an abundance of streams, rivers and canals in the region, but most farmers are unable to make use of their potential for irrigation due to lack of equipment. Therefore, the diets of most households depend on subsistence production of maize, beans, and leafy vegetables.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Almost half of children in Mozambique are chronically malnourished. In the rural areas of Gaza Province, children are especially vulnerable to hunger from seasonal fluctuations and insufficient agricultural production. This means that most children are not eating an adequate diet and nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals are particularly lacking. This prevents the child from developing physically and cognitively and is one of the leading factors in high absenteeism and dropout rates from school. In these rural communities, most families are subsistence farmers, however their production is constrained by the lack of modern inputs and improved technologies, such as seeds and small-scale irrigation equipment. Farmers typically make an average of USD $40-$50 cash income per year and therefore do not have the financial resources to invest in these productivity-enhancing inputs. Furthermore, farmers have limited access to markets, which are often far away and therefore have few opportunities to sell marginal surplus production that could increase their economic wellbeing. Unfortunately, many food aid programs, including school lunch programs, in Gaza Province rely on imported food products rather than harnessing the agricultural potential of the local area. As Mozambique develops a National School Lunch Program in the coming years, a shift to locally-sourced production could provide a huge stimulus to local farmers while also increasing the country's national food security. As Mozambique's rural population is growing fast, developing these types of integrated food policies will be essential to feeding the country and reducing poverty in rural areas.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative (MSLI) addresses these challenges by developing a home-grown school lunch program model that can be implemented in rural areas of Gaza Province, Mozambique. Our organization delivers school lunch programs to rural primary schools, focusing on villages with high levels of food insecurity and child malnutrition. Recognizing that low agricultural production and household poverty are key drivers of child malnutrition, MSLI works to address these root causes by connecting local smallholder farmers to the school lunch program’s supply chain. Farmers in the program receive improved inputs and agricultural training on credit, increasing their productive capacity. At harvest, they sell their surplus production to the school lunch program and pay back a percentage of the input costs. In this way, the farmers are equipped and incentivized to produce more, knowing that they have a guaranteed buyer at the local school. The school lunch program benefits from having a local supply of food and lower procurement costs.

In this way, MSLI addresses the immediate needs of child malnutrition and delivers quality daily school meals to ensure that students are well-fed and are able to stay in school. In particular, our school meals are based on traditional Mozambican recipes that focus on the key foods and nutrients that children are not eating enough of at home. This includes beans, vegetables, peanuts, and chicken. At the same time, MSLI invests in the long-term solution to improved food security by equipping local farmers with the tools to increase their production and provide a guaranteed market where they can sell for a fair price through the school lunch program. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Nowhere should children miss school because of hunger. School lunch programs exist in countries all around the world and serve as an important safety net for children, improving their nutrition and educational performance. In Mozambique, school lunch programs currently reach less than 3% of all primary schools and poor children suffer the most from the dual lack of quality nutrition and educational opportunities. In 2017, the Government of Mozambique launched the country's first National School Feeding agenda, which emphasizes the transition towards a home-grown school lunch model. However, implementing this program across the country is a major challenge and the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative aims to become a key partner by providing a blueprint for how this can be done. In particular, the development of local supply chains offers a tremendous opportunity for local farmers to increase their agricultural production, both through access to improved inputs as well as through the connection to an anchor market in their community. 

We envision a future in 2050 whereby home-grown school lunch programs are guaranteed in all primary schools in Gaza Province (and Mozambique in general) and children are able to learn on a full belly. We envision a system whereby the resources used to provide the school meals are leveraged to create economic opportunities for local farming families, investing in their production, providing market opportunities, and increasing the overall level of food security in the community.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative's (MSLI) vision is to create a thriving food system that connects local farmers to school lunch programs in rural villages of Gaza Province, Mozambique. The key to addressing long-term food security needs and improving child nutrition lies with smallholder farmers, who are responsible for producing the vast majority of Mozambique's food but still don't have the adequate tools necessary. Given the high levels of child malnutrition and precarious situation of most smallholder farmers, achieving this vision by 2050 requires a holistic approach that invests in the local communities.

Market access is one of the key constraints for rural smallholder farmers in Mozambique to access improved inputs as well as sell surplus production. Farmers often live in remote areas far from markets and do not have access to financial resources or credit to afford inputs. Even if they did have credit, they may have difficulty paying back at the end of the season because the distance to markets is so high that the revenue earned from crop sales barely covers the cost of production.

One way to overcome this constraint is to leverage structured demand to develop producer-consumer linkages in rural areas, bringing both input and output markets closer to rural farmers. The concept of “structured demand,” as coined by the Gates Foundation, is to connect large, predictable sources of demand for agricultural products to smallholder farmers, which reduces risk, encourages investment, and creates income-generating opportunities for rural households. MSLI's vision is to do just that by developing a home-grown school lunch program model that can target the immediate needs of child nutrition and provide long-term strategies and pathways out of poverty for smallholder farmers through new market opportunities.

Our systems approach to providing school lunches leverages this critical safety net program to develop a sustainable solution that involves the local community. The school lunches are designed according to local dietary preferences and the crops that can be produced in the existing agro-climatic conditions. This stands in sharp contrast to the imported corn-soy porridge that is often distributed as a school meal by other organizations working in the region. Children love our school meals and are motivated to come to school every day. Recent test scores also show a marked increase for the students who have benefited from the school lunch program over the last two years as opposed to those who have not - increasing 5th grade pass rates by up to 20 percentage points.

For farmers, the opportunity to farm with improved inputs and technologies is truly transformative. The guaranteed market facilitates investment in improved seeds, small-scale irrigation equipment and tractor services. This enables farmers to farm more land, get higher yields and earn more income. In our last season, farmers over doubled their income through sales to the school lunch program. They also had more food available for their own families and increased the availability of fresh food for the local community. 

In these ways, expanding MSLI's home-grown school lunch program model to more schools will enable us to realize a vision in 2050 where no child misses school due to hunger and local farming families are part of the solution.

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