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Enhancing Social Protection Programs During Emergencies In Nicaragua

Protecting School Children from Food Price Shocks; Promoting Food security for the Poor


As Nicaragua sought to temper the effects of recent food price shocks, the World Bank joined with the government in a project to address both the immediate impacts on the poor, particularly school children, and the longer-term challenges of food security. The project supported the provision of school lunches for about 609,000 school children through an existing national program, provided nutrition training in the most vulnerable municipalities to strengthen the national nutritional strategy, and supported the provision of certified grain seeds, fertilizers, and training to 8,810 small farmers in the poorest municipalities during 2009 and 2010.

Short video prepared for the Annual Meetings 2011. Global Response, Local Success. The Food Price Crisis in Nicaragua. WB Production 2011.

September 21,2011.


By the end of 2008, Nicaragua had experienced some of the highest price increases in the Latin American region, as natural disasters compounded the 28 percent annual increase in global food prices recorded between 2006 and 2008. These events dramatically affected Nicaragua’s domestic food production and disproportionately hurt the poor.

The onset of fresh natural shocks, such as the “El Niño” phenomenon, caused droughts and unexpected and intensive rain that affected both the 2009 and 2010 planting cycles. Small farmers bore the brunt of these impacts, as did food production across the country more broadly



After Nicaragua was severely hit by the increase in food prices in 2008, the government adopted a two-pronged strategy that combined actions to support the most vulnerable groups of the population and actions aimed at expanding the supply of agricultural goods. The Bank sought to assist the government by designing two operations. The first built on existing programs with established systems to minimize risks and ensure prompt implementation. These programs were the Integral School Nutrition Program (PINE) and the Agro-Seeds Program (PAS). The second aimed to improve the availability of, and access to, high quality seeds in order to sustainably increase agricultural productivity. Indeed, while this project supported two core programs for immediate relief for the poorest, it also contributed to strengthening the government’s ability to respond to crises in general (in particular, through the strengthening of the National Social Protection System, and the National Seeds System). Under the PINE component, the project’s targeted areas included 51 municipalities classified as poor or having high or very high food vulnerability. The PAS component targeted 40 municipalities with high poverty and food vulnerability.


Through this project, the Bank has contributed to the achievement of the following results:

  • Provision of school lunches for approximately 609,000 preschool and primary school children in targeted areas who attended school for different lengths of time during the school years of 2009 and 2010.
  • Increased retention and attendance rates in public primary schools in targeted areas from 85 percent to 99 percent and from 79 percent to 81 percent, respectively, during the period 2008-2010.
  • Provision of food security and nutrition training to approximately 1,624 schools in the most vulnerable municipalities of the Atlantic Coast regions throughout 2009.
  • Distribution of certified grain seeds and fertilizers to a total of 8,810 farmers with small landholdings in the poorest municipalities for the planting cycles of 2009 and 2010, totaling 17,597 manzanas, or 12,318 hectares.
  • Improvements in the maize yield from 1,012 to 1,821 kg/ha and in the yield for beans from 552 to 651 kg/ha for the period 2009-2010.

Bank Contribution

This project was financed out of the Food Price Crisis Response Trust Fund in the amount of US$7.0 million under the Global Food Price Response Program, a rapid-financing facility established in May 2008. In addition to this project, the Bank has also successfully mobilized financing for school feeding through a Japan Social Development Fund recipient executed grant (US$2.7 million) and two additional IDA operations, one for the school feeding program (US$4 million) and another for the agricultural sector (US$10 million).


There is a strong partnership among key development donors in Nicaragua’s agricultural sector. Besides the World Bank, there are more than ten active donors (e.g. the Inter-American Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Spain, Finland, and UN agencies among others) in the agricultural sector that coordinate efforts, investments, and analytical work under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture. With respect to school feeding, the major external financing partner has been the World Food Program that targets the 44 most vulnerable municipalities in terms of food insecurity in the country. They have a four-year action plan to finance the program, contributing close to US$4.0 million a year. The World Bank has contributed approximately US$12 million to this program since 2009.

Moving Forward

This project showed to both the Bank and to the Government that there are critical elements in preparing and implementing such emergency operations such as: using the operation as an opportunity to craft longer-term responses to vulnerability; channeling the response through programs that are already in place and reach the beneficiaries quickly, and introducing operational adaptations to programs that aim to increase sustainability in the agricultural sector under emergency contexts. Since this project, three operations have been designed that further promote the efforts supported by this project and that benefited from its design: (i) Both the Nicaragua Food Emergency Support Program for School Children and the Nicaragua Social Protection Project that support the continued implementation and strengthening of the PINE; and (ii) the Additional Financing to the Second Agricultural Technology Project, which aims to strengthen the National Seed System.


In el Sauce, Leon, the project covered around 6,504 children. Juana del Carmen Valverde, a mother of a primary school child in El Sauce, supported the School Food committees by taking turns with other parents in the preparation of school lunches voluntarily. “There are kids that come hungry to school because they do not have breakfast. Here in the school, they get their lunch, and like my son, when they come home they say: ‘Mother, I already had something to eat.’ I am very happy about that because there are a lot of parents who are extremely poor and the lunch really helps them.”.

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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