USDA has signed an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to assess the feasibility of implementing programs for schools to purchase food for school meals from local smallholder farmers in four Sub-Saharan African countries.
"USDA will examine each country’s current school feeding programs, agricultural development and marketing systems, community and institutional support, and nutritional needs to determine whether the country can support such a school feeding program," says Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Mark Keenum.
The assessments must be completed by USDA in the next eight months, including preparing reports on the findings in each of the four countries. Each country will receive a copy of the assessment that they can use to seek assistance from potential public and private bilateral or multilateral donors to develop a program in their region. Many of the smallholder farmers are women working on less than two hectares of land for less than two-dollars a day.
The four countries will be assessed by a team of specialists from USDA, the land-grant university system, and the United Nations World Food Program. USDA will also rely on the host-country government, non-governmental and private voluntary organizations, and its network of U.S. overseas agricultural attachés at American embassies to support the project.