Mozambique School Lunch Initiative

Improving child nutrition through locally-sourced school lunch programs in Mozambique.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Mozambique School Lunch Initiative

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $50k - $100k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Mozambique

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Mozambique: Chokwe


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Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

In Mozambique, almost half of children are chronically malnourished and over 50% of students drop out of school by grade 5. Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of school lunch programs to improve child nutrition and school retention, they reach less than 5% of all primary schools in Mozambique due to limited government and donor resources. Furthermore, the school lunch programs that do exist typically rely on imported corn and soy, reinforcing external dependency and forgoing value creation for local farmers.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative (MSLI) invests in community-owned school lunch programs, providing nutritious meals and bolstering local farming production. We develop local agricultural supply chains, using the school lunch program as an anchor buyer. We use a portion of the produce for the school lunch program and sell the rest in markets to generate revenue for the farmers and for the school lunch program’s expenses. Through engagement with MSLI, farmers have access to improved inputs like seeds and irrigation equipment, which boosts their agricultural production capacity. At the same time, by aggregating farmers’ production, MSLI provides farmers with a route to market and creates a revenue-generating mechanism for sustaining the school lunch program. In addition to the positive downstream effects for local agriculture, our model’s built-in sustainability enables the expansion of school lunch programs to more communities, leading to nutritional benefits for more children.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

MSLI has grown intentionally since our start in 2016 and is currently working in 5 schools in rural Mozambique, serving over 1,000 students a nutritious lunch every school day. In these schools, up to 70% of students are considered orphans or vulnerable children and the school lunch is their first and main meal of the day. During the lean season, it may be their only meal. On average, our school lunches provide over 1/3 of a child’s entire weekly energy requirements, 53% of their protein, and many other micronutrients. In 3 of the schools where drop-out rates used to be 30%, there is now almost 100% retention. The first round of investment in local production generated 20% cost savings for the school lunch program and has also positively impacted farmers. An evaluation of our impact on farmers found a 25% increase in crop diversity, a 10-fold increase in the likelihood of a farmer selling some of their production, and a new source of income for 90% of the farmers involved.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

MSLI operates as a socially-oriented investor, aggregator, and seller of farmers’ production as a means to sustain school lunch programs. The initial phase of our initiative is funded by individual donations (~60% to date) and grants (~40% to date), which jump-starts the development of local supply chains that then become the revenue-generating engines of the school lunch programs. Within 3 seasons, the school lunch program should be completely sustained by sales from farmers’ production (100% earned revenue), with donor funding used to launch new schools. In our first round of investment, farmers’ production generated 20% savings for the school lunch program and we expect this to increase quickly as farmers become more experienced and MSLI is able to aggregate and sell more production.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

MSLI invests in local farmer groups to supply school lunch programs, creating a mechanism for community ownership and increased sustainability. In doing so, our model significantly reduces the resource barrier that prevents the expansion of school lunch programs to more schools in Mozambique. While providing high-quality nutrition to more children, we also channel investment to local farmers, prompting positive downstream effects for agricultural development.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

During the 2015/2016 drought in Mozambique, we heard that children were dropping out of school because they were too hungry to learn anything. Pulling together our personal resources, we decided to try and change this. Within a month of launching our pilot school lunch program in three schools, we found that the school lunches were the main if not only meal of the day for almost three-quarters of the students. We realized there was a critical need to make the school lunch programs locally sustainable so that we could scale to more schools with equal needs. We sat down with the community and they voiced the need for investment so that they could increase their production and become active players in the school lunch program. We saw this as an opportunity to achieve the dual goal of creating shared value for farmers and supplying the school lunch program more sustainably.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

Our two core activities are the provision of the school lunch program and the development of local farmer supply chains, both currently based in Chokwe District, Mozambique. We work with the district government to identify schools where drop-out rates are highest and food insecurity is high. The school lunch program is carried out every school-day of the year. We also collaborate with the district health services to carry out biannual de-worming and weekly iron supplementation. Two women from the local community are hired as cooks at each school to prepare and serve the school lunches. A program supervisor visits the schools twice weekly to monitor the provision of the school lunches and re-stock food supplies. Our agriculture team works with groups of about 10 farmers per school, providing investment in improved inputs and training to build up farmers’ production capacity. The input support is structured on a tiered basis, gradually increasing in value as farmer groups become more experienced. Farmer groups are visited on a weekly basis during key stages of the production cycle. At harvest, MSLI pays farmers a fair price for their produce, using a portion directly in the school lunches and selling the remainder in the town market (about 1.5 hours away). In this way, farmers earn revenue and also support the school lunch program by creating direct cost savings for MSLI through lower procurement prices as well as generating revenue though surplus sales.

Focus area

  • Nutrition

We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.

MSLI improves child nutrition by leveraging investment in farmer groups to create more sustainable school lunch programs. By providing high-quality nutrition in schools, we enhance the health of school-aged children and promote better educational outcomes, two essential factors in a child’s development. Our initiative contributes to the international “home-grown” school meals program agenda. So far, many of the other attempts to promote home-grown school meals programs in sub-Saharan Africa have been based around two alternative models: planting school gardens and buying locally. Our field experience and research has shown that the lack of clear ownership and incentive structures for school gardens often undermine the sustainability of this option. Sourcing food crops locally is another alternative, but assumes that there is consistently sufficient production in the local community that can be sold to the school lunch program. In the communities we are targeting, there are high rates of child undernutrition precisely because these children are coming from food insecure households, which means that farmers are often not producing enough to even feed their own families. Our model recognizes this critical challenge, which is why we invest in increasing farmers’ yield so that there will be enough surplus to support the school lunch program. By taking this differentiated approach, our initiative supports farmer groups to help bring school lunch programs to more children.

Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

MSLI creates shared value by investing in sustainable revenue streams to support school lunch programs and develop new market opportunities for farmers. For 90% of the farmers in the groups working with MSLI, they have never before had access to investment or sold any of their agricultural production. The small scale of these individual farmers, their lack of access to financing, and their distance from markets means that other middlemen are typically uninterested in making the up-front investment necessary to increase production or offer farm-gate prices so low that farmers earn little income and profits are not funneled back into the community. Our initiative changes this paradigm by setting the school lunch program at the heart of our business model and social purpose. Therefore, our position as a market player in rural Mozambican agriculture creates a significant new source of income for farmers and is also the lynchpin to increased sustainability of school lunch programs.

How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?

MSLI leverages grant funding as the initial investment in the school lunch program and local supply chain development. Our model assumes an up-front cost of building up farmers’ capacity and then lays out a pathway for building long-term sustainability through aggregation and sales of farmers’ surplus production. Over the next 5 years, our business model will continue to use grant funding to support the launch phase of the school lunch program. However, the revenue-generation from local farmers in our supply chains will contribute an increasingly larger portion of our budget for the school lunch program, with a target of full self-sustainability within 3 seasons. In this way, MSLI acts as a market player with a social purpose.

How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?

If we are a winner of the CSV Prize, MSLI will be able to expand to more schools and reach the threshold whereby we can show that our model is scalable and replicable. Our goal is to influence the field of school lunch programs through both direct implementation as well as replication by other stakeholders. Many school lunch programs in countries like Mozambique still rely on imported corn soy porridge and there is not a clear blueprint for how to transition to more locally sourced alternatives. As a winner of the CSV Prize, we would be able to demonstrate our model’s impact at a larger scale, gaining traction with more funders and setting an example for other actors to improve their school lunch program design.

How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?

MSLI will leverage the prize money from Nestle by investing in 15 new farmer groups (and associated school lunch programs) as well as strengthening the existing 5 farmer groups. This money will be used to support the critical transition phase for farmer groups to reach the production threshold whereby MSLI can sustainably support the school lunch program through the aggregation and sales of the farmers’ produce. We estimate this transition to take 3 seasons on average, giving time for farmers to learn and build trust with MSLI as a fair and reliable buyer. During this time, MSLI will also leverage investment as a stop-gap funder for the school lunch program associated with each farmer group, filling the gap not yet covered by sales.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?

We aim to expand to more schools in Mozambique to show that our model is scalable and sustainable. There are 85 primary schools in Chokwe District, 704 primary schools in Gaza Province, and approximately 19,000 primary schools in Mozambique. Over 95% of these schools do not have a school lunch program, and we aim to be a major player in helping fill this gap. The vast majority of these schools are located in rural areas with agricultural potential. This means that there is a market opportunity for MSLI to leverage its position as an investor and aggregator in rural communities to create sustainable supply chains for school lunch programs. Our scale-up plan assumes that our supply chain development strategy with farmers will lead to improved agricultural production and sustained revenue-generation through sales of surplus production. Given the risk of agriculture to extreme weather, we will build in a buffer to be able to support the school lunch program in the case of crop failure.

Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?

MSLI was founded by a team of Mozambican and American colleagues with prior experience working for development organizations in Mozambique. *Roberto Mutisse (Co-Founder, Programs Manager): Leads on-the-ground operations, drawing on 10+ years of management, human resources and accounting experience; native of Chokwe; full-time. *Cara Myers (Co-Founder, Executive Director): Masters student at Harvard Kennedy School, leads strategy development and fundraising. Will be full-time in Mozambique when she graduates in May 2018. Our current operations team includes a program supervisor, two agronomists, and 8 agronomy interns, all full-time. Our board of advisors is currently being formed, including a nutritionist, a Mozambican businessman, and a Harvard development professor.

Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?

D-Prize, winner 2017 Harvard New World Social Enterprise Fellowship, fellow 2017-2018 Harvard Business School New Venture Competition, Social Enterprise finalist 2017 MIT Africa Innovate Conference New Venture Competition, finalist 2017

Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?

While we are still a young organization, we have already engaged stakeholders including the Mozambican Ministry of Education, the World Food Program, and TechnoServe. We have also shared our model by attending international school feeding forums, such as the Global Child Nutrition Forum. Additionally, our initiative strongly values the role of Mozambican leadership as critical to our vision as an initiative that builds local capacity to solve local problems. While leveraging our position as a registered 501(c) in the U.S. to access international resources, we have also officially registered as an association in Mozambique, laying the foundation for creating momentum for local changemakers and innovators.

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018

  • Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018


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