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Open Access Study protocol

Improving community development by linking agriculture, nutrition and education: design of a randomised trial of “home-grown” school feeding in Mali

Edoardo Masset* and Aulo Gelli

Author Affiliations

Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RE, UK

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Trials 2013, 14:55  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-14-55

Published: 21 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Providing food through schools has well documented effects in terms of the education, health and nutrition of school children. However, there is limited evidence in terms of the benefits of providing a reliable market for small-holder farmers through “home-grown” school feeding approaches. This study aims to evaluate the impact of school feeding programmes sourced from small-holder farmers on small-holder food security, as well as on school children’s education, health and nutrition in Mali. In addition, this study will examine the links between social accountability and programme performance.

Design

This is a field experiment planned around the scale-up of the national school feeding programme, involving 116 primary schools in 58 communities in food insecure areas of Mali. The randomly assigned interventions are: 1) a school feeding programme group, including schools and villages where the standard government programme is implemented; 2) a “home-grown” school feeding and social accountability group, including schools and villages where the programme is implemented in addition to training of community based organisations and local government; and 3) the control group, including schools and household from villages where the intervention will be delayed by at least two years, preferably without informing schools and households. Primary outcomes include small-holder farmer income, school participation and learning, and community involvement in the programme. Other outcomes include nutritional status and diet-diversity. The evaluation will follow a mixed method approach, including household, school and village level surveys as well as focus group discussions with small-holder farmers, school children, parents and community members. The impact evaluation will be incorporated within the national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system strengthening activities that are currently underway in Mali. Baselines surveys are planned for 2012. A monthly process monitoring visits, spot checks and quarterly reporting will be undertaken as part of the regular programme monitoring activities. Evaluation surveys are planned for 2014.

Discussion

National governments in sub-Saharan Africa have demonstrated strong leadership in the response to the recent food and financial crises by scaling-up school feeding programmes. “Home-grown” school feeding programmes have the potential to link the increased demand for school feeding goods and services to community-based stakeholders, including small-holder farmers and women’s groups. Alongside assessing the more traditional benefits to school children, this evaluation will be the first to examine the impact of linking school food service provision to small-holder farmer income, as well as the link between community level engagement and programme performance.

Trial registration

ISRCTN76705891

Keywords:
School feeding; Impact evaluation; Education; Nutrition; Agriculture