Supply chain links: farmers, teachers and government officials attend Kenya National Learning Event


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Organised by SNV Kenya’s Procurement for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) team, the Kenya National Learning Event was a two-day event where participants - farmers, teachers, government officials and procurement experts - had the chance to share experiences and ideas about school feeding. The event had a turnout of over 70 attendees, many of whom contributed to the lively discussions on the themes of the Learning Event: inclusive procurement, farmer to market linkages and social audits.

The PG-HGSF programme interviewed a few participants to learn about their roles in the school feeding market and to hear about their perspectives on the Kenya National Learning Event.

Isaac Too - Chairman of Shemmers Community Based Organisation (CBO) 

Since 2006, Isaac has been the Chairman of Shemmers CBO, which represents a group of over 200 farmers in the county of Uasin Gishu in the west of Kenya. The goal of the CBO is to find markets and loans for local farmers. At the moment, their markets are the World Food Programme, millers, traders, and more recently, the Home Grown School Meals programme (HGSM). 

From farmers’ experiences, Isaac reported that they find the HGSM market to be more accessible, as the process of tendering is much shorter and less complicated than markets provided by organisations such as the World Food Programme. In 2014, the Shemmers CBO, for the first time, applied to 20 HGSM bids and won 10 of them. 

Isaac Too said, “SNV has assisted us through identifying the HSGM market and also through training. For example, they teach us about what to expect when tendering and take us on field trips to schools which help us understand what kind of supplies teachers are looking for when procuring for school meals.” 

While Isaac had positive things to say about the HGSM market, he also noted it was difficult and expensive for farmers to transport their supplies to schools, some of which are difficult to access, especially during rainy seasons when roads are washed out. During the learning event, difficulties with transport were a recurring theme for farmers working with the HGSM market. 

Isaac reported that during the learning event, elements of the tendering process were made much clearer to him, including learning that there should be no fees associated with the tendering process – something he was not aware of before.

Pauline Mumbiko, Head Teacher of Kijabe Primary School 

Pauline has been head teacher of Kijabe Primary School since 2010, but she has been involved with HGSM since its inception in 2009, as previously she was deputy head teacher and participated in school feeding committees. 

At first, she found the HGSM process very difficult because she was not familiar with the procurement process. She also found that parents were reluctant to partner with teachers regarding school feeding. Therefore, head teachers were the only ones held accountable for all school feeding procurement. Through training and social audit sessions, community members were informed about the importance their participation played in school feeding to ensure school funds were used properly in purchasing high quality food for their children. Pauline stated, “In fact, every coin has been used in school feeding and now transparency has opened [the community’s] eyes to their ownership of school feeding and has encouraged total active [community] participation.” 

In Kijabe, capacity building started in 2012 with HGSM - school feeding officers called head teachers on their mobile phones and explained the procurement guidelines during these calls. Later, this information would trickle down from the head teacher to school feeding committee participants and the community. To strengthen this process of information sharing, SNV advisors initiated a training series and facilitated social audits to help everyone understand the procurement process, as well as the roles and responsibilities of those involved. 

During the learning event, Pauline found information on the proper steps of procurement very useful. She also found experiences in school feeding shared from the Mali and Ghana teams to be interesting. When meeting other head teachers in neighbouring counties, she learned about their approaches to school feeding procurement, which reflected her own experiences. Pauline said that through exchanging such experiences with other HGSM communities, she knows she is on the right track – and she hopes to report this good news back to parents in her community involved in school feeding.

Patrick Ndungu - School Feeding Officer for Laikipia Central County 

Patrick is a government officer working in school feeding. Initially, he worked as a teacher, but since 2009, has been working as a School Feeding Officer in Laikipia Central. 

Patrick’s primary role as a school feeding officer is to disseminate information about school feeding to and from the government and schools. He calls schools when their funds are released so they can purchase school feeding supplies and shares information on procurement guidelines. He also reports back to the Ministry of Education about the progress of the programme. 

In December 2014, the Kenyan government will be implementing an ICT (information and communications technology) system that will be used to track school feeding funds and procurement. The ICT system will feature a website where schools can log information about school feeding procurement. Patrick will be working with schools in Laikipia County to introduce this system. 

Currently, Patrick works directly with SNV on data collection, school visits, social audits, and training on procurement manuals. “There are gaps in the HGSM programme that cannot be breached by the government that SNV addresses, such as capacity building and clear training on procurement processes.” said Patrick. 

During the learning event, Patrick was able to hear about the experiences of linking smallholder farmers to school feeding in Uasin Gishu and Narok Counties - two counties that are located quite far from one another. Uasin Gishu and Narok work closely together to have the farmers from Uasin Gishu (a crop productive area) feed children in Narok (a mostly arid and unproductive area), even though the distance between the two counties is approximately 150km. Patrick’s working area, Laikipia Central, is trying to work with farming groups located in Laikipia West, about 80km away. Patrick had thought this distance of 80km was too far and made it impossible for these farmers to supply to Laikipia Central. But, after learning about the example of Uasin Gishu and Narok, he believes that it will be a definite possibility for those farmers in Laikipia West to sell their goods to Laikipia Central schools. 

Participants clearly connected and learned a great deal from one another during the Kenya National Learning Event. The PG-HGSF team hopes that other learning events in Ghana and Mali (to be held in November and December 2014) will be just as fruitful.