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John Brooks, Katherine Casey and Dick Commandeur+
* John Brooks, MSc Public Administration, is a Procurement
Consultant to SNV. His professional focus is on building
public procurement capacity in both developing and
transition countries. Katherine Casey, MA, is a Learning
Manager at SNV USA.
Dick Commandeur, MSc
Agricultural Sciences, is a Senior Technical Advisor at SNV
ABSTRACT. Inclusive public procurement processes are
not enough to connect farmers as suppliers to school
feeding supply chains in Ghana, Kenya and Mali. Despite
explicit goals on sourcing ingredients locally, school
feeding programs in each country do not fulfil their
potential to generate income for rural farmers through
public tenders. To equip farmers to be competitive
suppliers, SNVs Procurement Governance for Home
Grown School Feeding project initiated activities in four
areas: matchmaking and market intelligence, business
training, technical and logistical capacity, and facilitating
financial services. This paper demonstrates how supplier
development activities can improve the achievement of
inclusive procurement by extending the range of
relationships (between buyers and suppliers) to include
institutions, and the private sector.
In many low and middle income countries, the
provision of free or low cost in-school meals and/or takehome rations, collectively termed here School Feeding
Programs (SFPs), for students have been introduced. (de
Schutter, 2014) In 2003 African governments began to
include requirements for locally-sourced produce for SFPs
in the framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture

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Development Programme. (NEPAD, 2003) Generally, the

SFPs are part of a combination of policies and
interventions that accompany the introduction of free
primary education. (Kattan, 2006) These SFPs are funded
in whole or part by national governments, OECD country
development partners, and multinational organizations
such as World Food Program. Implementing SFPs requires
the coordination of governmental and non-governmental
actors, from the national level to the community level.
(Bundy, 2009)
The prime objective of SFPs is to provide a portion of
the daily nutritional requirements to students, especially
in those locations of poverty and/or food shortages, and
thus facilitate student learning and retention in the school
system. In countries that implement a model of SFP called
Home Grown School Feeding, a secondary objective is to
obtain food from sources local to the schools, and the
main ingredients of these meals are grown domestically.
As such, public procurement can serve as a mechanism
for improving the economic lives of local farmers and
other suppliers and contractors, going beyond
efficiency, in the words of Sue Arrowsmith, to promote
justice and use procurement as a social policy tool.
(Arrowsmith, 1995) To support this objective, many
countries introduce the practices of sustainable
Sustainable public procurement is when procuring
entities seek a balance between economic, social and
environmental impact when procuring goods or services
with tax-payer money. (European Commission, 2016) In
terms of Home Grown SFPs, sustainable procurement is
focused on achieving the effective balance of vertical
and horizontal policies to achieve the best value from
the desired school feeding supply community for the
buyers. For food procurement, main vertical policy
criteria are price, delivery and quality; horizontal
policies include economic and social aspects,
especially to include smallholder farmers as direct or
indirect suppliers. Because the differentiator between
regular SFPs and Home Grown SFPs is the emphasis on
sourcing from local smallholder farmers, we use the

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term inclusive procurement to indicate the focus on

opening these specific SFPs to smallholder farmers as
potential suppliers. (Brooks, 2014)
Inclusive public procurement comprises a number of
interrelated interventions (see figure 1) including:
administrative adjustments (procurement side actions);
focused procurement (premiums and preferences);
and, the focus of this paper, initiatives for supplier
Supplier development, or bidders strengthening,
relates to efforts to build the capacity of the supply
community to become competitive participants in bids
and comply with all requirements of the contracts. The
overall aim of supplier development for home grown
SFPs is to make the supply chain more inclusive of
Components of Inclusive Procurement


Vertical Policies


Horizontal Policies

Focused Procurement
Bidder selection process modified
Set asides and limiting competition
Open bidding with price preference for identified category
of bidders
Supplier Development
Matchmaking and market intelligence
Business training
Technical and logistical capacity
Facilitating financial services
Procurement Adjustments
Publish procurement guidelines
Training buyers/sellers in guidelines
3 of bidding
opportunities widely
Bid time/purchase size to suit bidders
Grievance forum for bidders

smallholder farmers and their organizations. In addition

to involving farmers and their organizations directly,
the supplier development community also includes
building the capacity of existing SFP suppliers (caterers
and traders) to source from smallholder farmers in an
evidenced way. School feeding supplier development
activities consist
matchmaking and market
intelligence, business training, technical and logistical
capacity, and facilitating financial services.
In this paper, we use the example of SFPs to argue
achievement of inclusive procurement by extending
the range of stakeholders beyond the traditional
bilateral relationships (between buyers and suppliers)
to include related government ministries, civil society
institutions, and the private sector.
SNV is a not-for-profit international development
organisation that works in 38 countries in Asia, Africa and
Latin America, implementing projects in agriculture,
renewable energy, and water and sanitation. In 2011 SNV
was awarded a five-year, 7.5 million USD grant from the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement the
Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding
project. The project was designed to strengthen
procurement and supply side processes and actors with

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the aim of improving the links between smallholder

farmers and SFPs in Ghana, Kenya, and Mali.
Introduction to SFPs in Ghana, Kenya, and Mali
Ghana, Kenya, and Mali have significant economic,
political and social challenges that in themselves require
innovative approaches to effectively implement national
programs. The challenges include those general for
developing countries, such as poverty, poor living
conditions, high rates of illiteracy, inadequate health care,
limited transportation infrastructure, restricted ICT
penetration and high levels of corruption. (WilliamsElegbe, 2015) Both Mali and Kenya have had recent
instances of terrorist attacks.
The SFPs in each country were started between 2005
and 2011, and are all considered Home Grown School
Feeding programs, or programs that include an
agricultural development objective in addition to student
nutrition and retention objectives. Key statistics of the
three countries and related scopes of SFPs are provided in
Table 1.

Population 17 million
GDP/PPP USD 1,200/year

SCOPE OF SFPs (Commandeur,

444 schools
84,389 students
USD 12.4 million/year food

Population 26 million
GDP/PPP USD 4,100/year

4,887 schools
1,740,000 students
USD 47.2 million/year

Population 46 million

2,100 schools
800,000 students

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GDP/PPP USD 3,100/year

USD 19.4



7,431 schools - 2.6 million students - USD 79 million/year food

Country Statistics and Scope of State-Funded SFPs

SFP Procurement Legislation and Practices

All three countries have procurement legislation that
governs the purchases made using national funds. This
legislation is generally consistent with international
standards. As non-signatories to the World Trade
Organisation Government Procurement Agreement,
price preferences for domestic supply over imports can be
used and international participation in tenders can be
restricted. Only Kenya permits focused procurement by
introducing in 2013, a set aside of 30% of the total
budgets of public procuring entities to be spent with
companies owned by women, youth or physically
challenged persons.
SNVs direct conversations with government officials
showed initial reluctance to pursue legislative changes to
accommodate inclusive procurement for what individually
are micro purchases for the SFPs. A major concern with
adopting practices to favor smallholder farmers was the
potential lack of transparency and erosion of the best
value legal requirement. This is especially a concern at
local levels, where the procuring entities often lack
specific procurement knowledge and experience.
The SFPs in all countries had procurement regulations
in place at the national level when SNVs project started,
specifying food quantity and quality requirements and
providing an overview of the procurement process.
government procurement entities was either out of date
or incomplete. In Ghana, the procurement of caterer
services, their selection and contracting, took place at the
district level when the project started. With the aim of

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improving transparency, as of January 2016, caterers in

Ghana are being contracted through the Ghana SFP at the
national level. In Kenya and Mali the procurement of food
is done by the schools. However, in Mali, procurement of
food is occasionally conducted through bulk purchases by
the local government officials.
SFPs require suppliers to be registered with the
business and tax agencies of the countries. The costs and
effort of this registration are seen by individual
smallholder farmers as too high in comparison with
potential gains, which limits direct smallholder inclusion.
(Brooks, 2014)
Mali and Ghana set targets for the percentage of SFP
funds to be spent on produce from smallholder farmers:
50% and 80% respectively. (Commandeur, 2012) Due to a
lack of recordkeeping or reporting requirements,
compliance with these targets is not available, but
considered minimal. (ibid.)
Effective SFP procurement requires planning and the
certainty of funding availability to sustain the plans,
ensure the timely and adequate provision of meals, and
pay suppliers on time. However, in all three countries
government funding delays and shortages result in the
suspension of meals for students, late start to open
tendering processes or delays in paying suppliers. These
funding issues jeopardize the SFPs ability to source from
local agricultural producers. In Kenya and Mali, SFP buyers
received few bids in response to invitations to tender. In
Kenya, late funding led to very short timelines for
procurement, pushing buyers to source from suppliers,
like traders, who could mobilize goods on short notice. In
Ghana, funding delays often forced caterers to buy from
sources, such as traders, that could provide food on credit
or seek loans or other forms of financing to bridge the
gap. (Sanogo, 2015)
The SFPs in the three countries purchase USD 79
million in food annually. (Commandeur, 2016) If sourced
from smallholder farmers, both men and women, this
would represent a substantial and new market for them.

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The procurement characteristics and key stakeholders of

the three SFPs are summarised in Table 2.




SFP Procurement Characteristics and Stakeholders

Food purchased
(based on value
via either limited
or open bidding)
by each school
or commune
Meals cooked by
school hired
Funding delays

Each school
buys via
s, traders
cooked by
school hired

Smallholder farmers
Producer organizations
Civil society
Decentralized government
(districts in Ghana,
communes in Mali and
counties in Kenya)
Ministry of Education

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District offices
contract (via
limited bidding)
for caterers for
meals to schools
caterers buy food
from smallholder
farmers, producer
Some food stuffs
are centrally
procured (e.g.
rice); issued at
cost to caterers.
Caterers finance
food, paid late
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Finance
World Food Program
International NGOs
(Care, Catholic Relief
Services, Partnership for
Child Development,


National Centre
for School


Min. of Gender,
Children and
Social Protection;
Caterers and
District and
National Food
Buffer Company

Supplier Community
When the SNV project began, SFPs were sourcing
minimal amounts of food from smallholder farmers.
(Commandeur, 2012) Primary food suppliers were traders
and caterers, both of which purchased food from other
sources and were not required to document the origin of
the food. However, the project identified a large potential
smallholder farmers, their producer organizations, as well
as traders and caterers with the potential to document
their food sources.
Independent smallholder farmers are informal
producers with limited supply capacity and business skills
and are typically not registered as businesses with the
government. SNV defines smallholder farmers as men,
women and/or families for whom a considerable part of
the family income is generated by agriculture production;
the labor used in the rural activities is predominantly
family-based; and the farm is directly managed by the
family members. In practice, smallholder farmers are
subsistence-level farmers who produce food mainly for
their familys consumption, with relatively little surplus
available to sell to traders or producer organizations.

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Producer organizations (POs) are farmer co-operatives

or associations that serve as intermediaries between their
smallholder farmer members and markets. POs support
their members in a variety of ways, as displayed in Figure
1, to address gaps between an individual farmers capacity
and the market demand, especially by product
aggregation to comply with quantity, quality and
continuity requirements. With respect to SFPs, POs can
serve as the key supply chain partner to facilitate
opportunities for smallholder farmers to access school
feeding, and
possibilities. (Maijers, 2016)
Representation of the Main Roles of A Producer

Source: Maijers (2016).

intermediaries between smallholder farmers and markets,
including government purchasers, especially in areas
without local POs and areas where agricultural production
occurs far from markets. Traders can also partner with
POs in inclusive business relationships to jointly
participate in tenders that require evidence of local

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In Ghana the procurement of foodstuffs is conducted

by the registered caterers under contract to the Ghana
School Feeding Programme Secretariat (as of January
2016). Caterers, buying on their own behalf to produce
the meals, are not limited to buying from registered
entities and can buy food directly from all suppliers,
including smallholder farmers.
In all countries, all supply community members (POs,
traders and caterers) have low levels of business maturity
in supply chains, especially in relation to procurement,
documentation/record keeping.
The SNVs preliminary research revealed procurementand supplier-side challenges to inclusive procurement in
the three countries. To address the procurement-side
challenges, SNV applied a range of administrative
adjustment to procurement procedures to level the
playing field for the supply community, especially
smallholder farmers and producer organizations. These
activities, which will be documented in a forthcoming SNV
publication, included: piloting tools to advertise and
evaluate tenders; adjusting bid time, products, quality
and quantities ordered to suit the supply community;
processes clearly in procurement/operations manuals
accessible to SFP buyers as well as potential suppliers;
and training public procurement officials in inclusive
procurement processes.
To address the supplier-side challenges, related with
the focus of this paper, SNV conducted pilots for school
feeding supplier development around four key areas:
matchmaking and market intelligence, business training,
technical and logistical capacity, and facilitating financial
services. Some pilots were limited to one country, while
others were applied in all three project countries. The goal
was to address and remove or mitigate the barriers to
smallholder farmer involvement in SFPs.

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SNV focused the projects supplier development

interventions on existing POs in all countries. SNV
combined this focus on POs with traders and (in Ghana)
with caterers through inclusive business practices, or,
developing a mutually beneficial relationship between
smallholder farmers and a third party in order to meet
market demands. SNV included caterers in the project
interventions given their crucial role procuring food in the
Ghana SFP supply chain, to build their capacities to
operate as microbusinesses, and to optimise smallholder
farmer inclusion in the Ghana SFP.
SNVs approach integrated the full range of
stakeholders supporting suppliers in each country,
starting with the bilateral relationships between buyers
and suppliers, but also involving related government
ministries, civil society organizations, development
partners, financial institutions, and the private sector in
substantive ways where their involvement could
potentially benefit the supplier community.
Matchmaking and Market Intelligence
When SNV commenced work, potential school feeding
suppliers, including farmers and POs, were unaware of the
SFP food requirements. Similarly, buyers, including
schools, mayors, and caterers were unaware of the
market capacities of POs.
SNV implemented several pilots to improve market
intelligence for both buyers and suppliers. SNV organized
matchmaking events in all three countries, yearly
meetings for local POs and traders to learn about SFP
requirements and procedures directly from SFP buyers.
Information shared at these events included an overview
of SFP tenders, the bid evaluation process and details on
food quality and quantity needs. SFP buyers also
benefited by learning about the capacity of POs in their
region to fulfil SFP tenders. These events included buyer
to buyer roundtables to facilitate business arrangements
between direct suppliers (caterers, traders) and POs for
local foodstuffs. The events attracted over 2,700 supply

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chain actors and resulted in USD 470,000 of income for

participating farmers, the majority of which were first time
suppliers to school feeding.
In Ghana and Kenya, SNV worked with existing market
intelligence platforms (mFarm, Cerealmart, Soko Pepe) to
register SFP buyers and PO suppliers. The platforms
enable SFP buyers to publish their calls for quotations and
demand for food products, and also enables POs to
present their available products and costs both online
and via sms. To date, 7,500 school feeding buyers and
POs are registered on the platforms and exchanging
information on food demand and offer. While the
platforms are starting to generate some results, weak
internet in project areas was a significant problem during
the pilot, while the sms feature more helpful to inform the
farmers. In Ghana, users can transmit information in local
languages, which enables even greater communication
between actors.
Business Training
Suppliers to public school feeding programs in low
income areas are typically small- to medium-sized caterer
and trader enterprises managed in an informal way. They
have basic bookkeeping, if any, and their in- and outbound marketing is based on spot markets and collection
from the farm gate.
For these enterprises to meet the SFP requirements of
food safety and documented sourcing from smallholder
farmers, their recordkeeping needed to be formalized, as
did their arrangements with POs, and they needed to
improve product handling to guarantee food quality.
Likewise, the POs that SNV worked with were at different
levels of formalization as organization: some operated as
SNV organized trainings for caterers, traders, and POs
in topics like: recordkeeping; book keeping; identifying,
negotiating and contracting with POs/caterers or traders;
responding to tenders, building entrepreneurial skills;
basic financial literacy; storage management; hygiene

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and food handling; and forming business associations. In

most instances, these trainings were conducted with
officers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Finance and/or
Trade and Industry, the national SFP, and district level
government offices. In some instances, the trainings were
co-conducted by SNV and local consultants or government
officials. In Ghana, for example, the training of caterers
was also linked with access to credit and done in
coordination with district level public Business Advisory
Centers of the National Board of Small Scale Industry to
guarantee a long-term follow up after project closure. In
other cases, members from school management
committees attended the trainings, adding details about
their specific procurement needs and realities to potential
As the result of SNVs pilots, 1,910 caterers, 116
traders, and 1,970 farmers and PO staff received
representation from local government offices and national
Building Technical and Logistical Capacities
Individual smallholder farmers have little surplus
products for sale and many live in remote areas with poor
road infrastructure. These conditions create high
transaction costs to access markets for little gain. For the
individual farmers, registering as a business is not
lucrative (Brooks, 2014), but the absence of a registration
prohibits her/him from participating in public tenders.
Besides, a lack of product diversity and inadequate postharvest handling make it difficult for individual farmers to
pass the quality controls of SFP procuring entities.
To improve the competitiveness of smallholder
farmers, SNV strengthened their organizations, existing
POs, most of which had little previous commercial
experience. The project developed 18 business plans,
supporting a total 167 POs, that outline new commercial
activities to conquer formal markets. These plans,
developed in collaboration with local NGOs and
consultants, included targets for school feeding markets
as well as other public funded markets, such as secondary

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schools, universities, hospitals, that require POs to use a

similar skill set for tendering as well as private traders
and markets.
SNV also focused on developing the aggregation and
storage capacities of the organizations. In Kenya, this led
to some POs achieving Warehouse Receipt System
certification, from the East Africa Grain Council who also
participated in the trainings. This certification guarantees
good stock management and serves at the same time as
a collateral for farmer access to credit.
In total, 1060 POs, their members and leaders,
received a combination of training, coaching and small
project incentives to support the acquisition of basic
storage, administrative equipment, and administrative
support. The projects technical and logistical capacity
pilots, in combination with other project support, resulted
in a total of 20,000 farmers selling to school feeding and
other large public or institutional markets at a total value
of USD 2.3 million.
Facilitating Financial Services
In order for POs and caterers to purchase goods from
smallholder farmers, who require upfront payment when
goods are sold, both need working capital to pay farmers
upon the delivery of foodstuffs. POs need capital to
aggregate, handle and process goods from their
smallholder farmer members to be competitive suppliers
to school feeding and other large institutional markets.
However, a lack of capital for both POs and caterers can
significantly affect the ability for these small businesses
to source food from smallholder farmers. In Ghana,
caterers are contractually obligated to pre-finance school
feeding. A lack of working capital can force them to seek
suppliers that sell food on credit, which is impossible for
smallholder farmers and the majority of POs as well. In
Kenya and Mali, plans to aggregate food in bulk and fulfil
SFP tenders that demonstrate sourcing from smallholder
farmers can be thwarted if POs do not have the cash flow
to pay their smallholder members when food is supplied.

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To mitigate the impact of cash flow issues in Ghana on

purchases from smallholder farmers, SNV negotiated loan
terms for caterers with local banks. The loans offered
lower than market interest rates because their SFP
contracts, signed by government officials at the district
level served as collateral, guaranteeing the ensured,
albeit late, payment from government. The loans included
a condition that required caterers to buy a considerable
proportion of food from smallholder farmers and POs. The
caterers were required to document their purchases and
provide this documentation to the financial institution
upon request.
Another pilot consisted of empowering grain banks in
Ghana to provide food to caterers on credit. Grain banks
have historically been used as social safety net, buying
produce from local farmers in the harvest season and
selling it to local consumers in the lean season. Through
the project, SNV provided five grain banks with working
capital, equipment and training to sell products from local
farmers on credit to caterers. The pilot resulted in a new
profitable commercial activity for the grain banks and a
new market channel for the farmers in their communities
to sell indirectly to SFPs.
Between the three banks and the five grain banks
offering food on credit, SNV linked 49 caterers to credit
generating USD 85,500 in documented purchases from
900 farmers.
To overcome the challenges that POs face with cash
flow issues, SNV support the 167 POs that developed
business plans (see Building Technical and Logistical
Capacities) to use their plans to access funding for
investments in warehouses and for working capital,
enabling them to bulk products from their members and
respond to larger procurement tenders and private sector
orders. Investing in improved warehouses also helps POs
improve food handling and storage, which enables them
to guarantee the quality of their products to potential
clients. In Mali, a business arrangement between a big
processing firm and a PO led to plans of the firm to invest
in storage capacity of the PO to ensure its supply.

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Using the example of SFPs in Ghana, Kenya, and Mali,
this paper sought to demonstrate how supplier
development can improve the achievement of inclusive
procurement, by extending the range of stakeholders
beyond the traditional bilateral relationships (between
buyers and suppliers) to include related government
ministries, civil society organizations, development
partners, financial institutions, and the private sector.
The Procurement Governance for Home Grown School
Feeding project demonstrates that supplier development
initiatives can transform a supply chain with minimal
smallholder farmer sourcing into one that sources from a
large number of POs, both directly and indirectly through
caterers/traders. In its pilot areas, the project has
documented sales from over 20,000 farmers to school
feeding and large public or institutional markets, worth a
total of USD 2.3 million. If scaled nation-wide with similar
results, these interventions could provide more than 2.4
million smallholder farmers in Ghana, Kenya, and Mali
with an additional USD 124 of income per year by selling
to public and institutional markets.
The supplier development activities discussed in
this paper were implemented alongside a group of
procurement-side pilots as well that addressed the public
buyer side of inclusive procurement: administrative
adjustments to create a space for smallholder farmer
participation in transparent procurement processes. The
success of these supplier development activities cannot
be separated from their procurement-side activities that
took place alongside them. It is likely that the integrated
approach to inclusive public procurement that combined
supplier development with administrative adjustments
that contributed to the high number of farmers selling to
SFPs during the project.
SNVs supplier development pilots generated the
substantive participation of multiple stakeholder groups
including procuring entities, and those overseeing them,
at the national, district, and local level but also other
government ministries, civil society organizations,

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development partners, financial institutions, and the

private sector. Involving related government ministries
(agriculture, finance, health, decentralization), whose
mandate covers one or more members of the supply
chain, expanded the network of government support and
accountability for the school feeding program. The
participation of representatives from these ministries
mobilized their expertise to address gaps in technical or
governmental support for school feeding suppliers. Their
involvement may also increase the sustainability of the
supplier development initiatives.
Likewise, the role of SNV and other NGOs, both
international and local, played a crucial role in mobilizing
the seed funding to trial the pilot activities and in bringing
together stakeholders that may not have been involved if
the same initiatives were organized by the national SFP
secretariat independently. SNVs emphasis on using highly
local NGOs, consultants and civil society organizations to
deliver technical assistance also added value to the work,
enabling trainings to be conducted in local languages, by
facilitators knowledgeable about local market and
organisational realities.
The projects incorporation of financial service
providers, both directly, as in the case of the loans for
caterers, and indirectly, by supporting POs to use formal
business plans to seek financing, was a creative way to
address cash flow issues that prevent suppliers from
sourcing their goods from smallholder farmers.
Finally, the project involved various actors from the
private sector to benefit from the capacity building of the
SFP supplier community. This included key stakeholders,
such as caterers and traders, who SNV linked to
smallholder farmers and their organizations through
inclusive business practices to develop relationships
between farmers and a third party in order to meet
market demands. The project also involved niche private
sectors entities, like market intelligence platforms, radio
stations, business associations and technical consultants
to provide tailored services that complemented the
overall goals of SFP supplier development.

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demonstrate the strength in involving partners who are
both formally or informally associated with SFP buyers
and suppliers as well as those at the periphery of these
activities, like the banks and market intelligence
platforms, who are not officially part of the SFP system in
the country buy who, nonetheless, can support supplier
development in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways.
The involvement of these stakeholders not only supports
the competitiveness of smallholder farmers as suppliers
to SFPs, but also forms the basis of an infrastructure of
supplier development that can support the sustainability
of these inclusive procurement initiatives.
This paper is based on work funded by the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions
contained within are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation.
1. Data from this chapter based on the Procurement
Governance for Home Grown School Feeding Project,
SNV, 2011-2016.
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de Schutter, O. (2014). The Power of Procurement
Public Purchasing in the Service of Realizing the Right
to Food United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
Right to Food, Briefing Note 8.
Kattan, R. B. (2006). Implementation of Free Basic
Education Policy. Education Working Paper Series,
World Bank: 30.
Bundy, D. et al. (2009). Rethinking School Feeding: Social
Safety Nets, Child Development, and the Education

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Development / The World Bank: xix.
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