Closing Ceremony Of The 20th Annual Global Child Nutrition Forum

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*Cited strong governance structure, and robust procurement and funds disbursement processes ensured transparency and accountability.


We must commend the Global Child Nutrition Forum for providing such an excellent opportunity for the global school feeding community to come together to share ideas, learn from and inspire each other.

Today, there is hardly any need to make a case for the importance of school feeding.

There is global acknowledgement that there are multiple returns on investment in school feeding programmes, not just in education and health, but also in the rural economy including social protection and agriculture. But perhaps as important, is how it is that school feeding becomes the gateway to probably the most critical investment a country can make, the investment in human capital.

It is becoming clearer that the 21st Century will be defined by knowledge and skills. The nations that are best able to present the most knowledgeable and most skilful citizens, will prevail in commerce, in science and technology and of course, will enjoy the greatest prosperity and the longevity to enjoy the prosperity.


Nations that do not invest enough to produce the required level of talent and skills will be left behind, a farther distance than ever before in the history of mankind.

Nigeria took the decision to embark on a school feeding programme, as an important part of our human capital development agenda, by tackling the broader issues of eradication of poverty, food and nutrition security, and increasing school enrollment.

The programme is one of six components of our Social Investment Programme for which 1.3billion dollars have been provided in every budget cycle since 2016. Of that sum itself, about 20% is what we dedicate to the school feeding programme.

Nigeria is a Federation of 36 autonomous States and a Federal Capital Territory. The States are ethnically and culturally diverse, which explains why we chose a decentralized rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to implement the programme. State-specific menus were designed based on food availability, nutritional value, cultural sensitivity and affordability.

Community participation and ownership is an important feature; the cooks who are 98% women are recruited through a community engagement process. Each has a bank account; farmers who supply their produce to the programme are within the communities in which the schools are.

The managers and coordinators of the programme were taken through fairly rigorous capacity building sessions at different stages of implementation.

The National Framework for implementation, as well as monitoring and evaluation of the programme, adheres to the five global standards for school feeding namely: policy/legal framework, program design and implementation, institutional capacity and coordination, funding standard and community participation.

Governance in the form of oversight and approval of procurements is vested in a Steering Committee comprising relevant Ministries from Education, Agriculture, Health to Youth and Sports, Budget and National Planning and Women Affairs.

The Vice President chairs the steering committee, although the funding of the programme is domiciled in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. The strategic implementation team is multi-sectoral in composition, led by a Program Manager who reports to the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme in the Office of the Vice President.

This institutional framework has proved to be a critical element in the success of the program and it is replicated in the States.

To get a sense of the scope, and cost of the programme some facts may be helpful. At a cost of $0.19 per child per day, we are able to provide a balanced meal for every one of the children. 9,300,892 million pupils in 49,837 public primary schools in 26 states across Nigeria benefit daily.

At current numbers, the programme costs $1,767,169.48  per day and over $183million has been invested so far.  The programme employs 95,422 cooks, and over 100,000 smallholder farmers linked to the program, supplying locally sourced ingredients. This translates to 594 cattle, 138,000 chickens, 6.8 million eggs, 83 metric tons of fish that are procured, prepared and distributed each week.


As you can imagine, the quantity of starch, and vegetables required for this program on a weekly basis, is equally impressive.

Dietary energy and nutrients with established links to cognition, carbohydrates, protein, fat, iron and iodine as well as minerals, with public health importance are targeted by the NHGSF.


The program aims to provide 50% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake targets for protein and prioritized micronutrients, iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, folate and vitamin C and 30% of energy because of the high burden of under nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria.


There is also a de-worming programme attached to the school feeding programme. By the end of the year, the number of new States joining the programme will increase; the NHGSFP is set to become the largest school-feeding programme in Africa. We were talking about South Africa earlier, and how they were doing possibly 200,000 more than Nigeria at the moment, and we said they already lost the competition because Nigeria simply has more people. Except they can get to 200million people by the end of the year which is very unlikely.

The NHGSFP has been by all accounts, a remarkable success. Some possible success factors include:

  1. We learnt from past failures. An earlier attempt in 2004, by the then Federal Government to implement a homegrown school-feeding programme in 13 States had largely failed.
    The basic problems were weaknesses around governance, multi-sectoral coordination, and buy-in at the highest levels of political leadership.  We tried to avoid those pitfalls, which we launched with the new government in 2015.
  2. One of the most important features that we tried to ensure we had in place was unequivocal political will. The Federal Government was convinced that a homegrown school-feeding programme was fundamental to its social investment programme and its overall objective of radically improving human capital development. This explains the commitment of the government at the highest level.
  3. For transparency and accountability purposes, the sheer size of the programme and the very many moving parts, made it imperative for us to institute a strong governance structure, and robust procurement and funds disbursement processes, ensure transparency, accountability and trackability.
  4. The programme offered a good value proposition for all participants. The NHGSFP has not only provided a ready market and a sustainable income for our farmers, it has also improved the livelihoods of our cooks, most of whom now have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. Financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity.
    Moreover, with the capturing of their biometrics and the opening of bank accounts, as a prerequisite to their participation in the programme, we are ramping up on our country’s needs for identification, planning and social inclusion.
  5. We instituted multi-sectorial coordination; following the Federal model, States were encouraged to domicile the program leadership in the office of the Governor with an appointed program manager who coordinates the multi-sectorial team made up of individuals from Ministries of Health, Education, Agriculture, Justice and State Planning Commissions etc.
  6. Strategic partnerships are an important part of the success of the programme, The World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and World Food Program, are strategic partners in the implementation of the National Social Investment Programs and other complimentary interventions leading to increased social benefits to Nigerians.


I must here say that our fortuitous meeting and association with Leslie Drake of the PCD and Imperial College, is an important part of the success of the programme. Her expert advice and support and PCD lending us Bimbo Adesanmi, their programme coordinator, has been of tremendous help.

  1. Lastly, the programme meets the crucial objective
    of   helping children reach their developmental potential. We have seen that school feeding can encourage children to enroll and stay in school and those well-fed children are better able to participate in lessons.

To illustrate this, school enrollment increased by about 25 percent when this program first began. Also the fact that our investment in school feeding positively impacts the nutrition, as well as health and learning outcomes of our children, enhances our overall investment in education and development.

Empirical data from a study on The Effect of School Feeding Programme On Primary School Attendance In Rural Areas of Lagos State, Nigeria, had shown that not only did school feeding improve enrollment and attendance, but also increased parents income.

School feeding has certainly earned its place as a credible driver of human capital.

But our efforts have not been without challenges. First, the current coverage is still very well behind the numbers waiting on the queue. If we cover all primary one to three children, which is what we are doing at the moment, that would be 12million children in all 36 States and the FCT, if we cover all four to six primary school children, that would be 24million.


There is also the target to bring to zero, the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. We are looking at huge numbers and that means more commitment, and the numbers are increasing everyday.

Tied to that challenge is the peculiar issue of feeding children in conflict-affected zones. In the North East of Nigeria, especially Borno State, where we are about to start school feeding, but the numbers are large and some security challenges remain, happily I have received good indications of assistance in execution from Martha and friends from WFP. They will be working with us to see how we can effectively deliver home school feeding in Borno.

Secondly, to ensure price stability and food security, there is further need to work with smallholder farmers on how to boost productivity and storage to ensure reduced post-harvest losses. Some more focused work needs to be done with aggregators to ensure efficiency as the numbers grow.

There is a need to also engage our cooks on environmentally friendly cooking methods, to meet the challenges of climate change as well as reduce the hazards of cooking with firewood, currently quite prevalent.


Thirdly, funding will always be an issue, measurement, evaluation and research towards improving our processes, remain a recurring need as we grow the numbers in our efforts to perfect our activities. There is a great need for us to work in collaboration with agencies and countries of the world that are interested in the same programmes.


I think that the most important thing is that governments, especially our governments, must dedicate substantial parts of their budget to homegrown school-feeding. There is nothing like the commitment by the government itself through its own resources; it shows that that they understand the need for it.


For developing countries such as ours and of course many African countries, by far the greatest challenge for us in the next three decades is that of effective investment in the health and education of our population.


Nutrition is key to both; to enable children usefully participate, learn and develop mentally and physically and to be able to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment.


By 2035, Africa will have 1.2billion people. Over 50% of that number will be young persons under the age of 25. Today, 60 percent of the unemployed in Africa are young people. Nigeria, its most populous country, will become the 4th most populous nation in the world by 2050.


The consensus of opinion is that the early years of the lives of individuals are crucial for their mental and physical development. If the necessary interventions in nutrition, healthcare and education are missed at that critical stage, then we may lose whole generations to stunted development. We have an opportunity today, to make a real difference in the future of our people and our continent. Let’s do it!


Thank you so much.