Food Security


Fruit and vegetables on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg).

African food systems are dominated by informal markets, typically open-air markets found at designated sites and street corners, which often have poor hygiene and are subject to limited or poor regulation. Occasionally there are calls for these informal markets to be banned, but most consumers depend on them as they are more accessible and affordable than formal markets.

As we celebrate World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2020, it is crucial that governments recognize the importance of better food safety in informal markets. One way to encourage them to take food safety seriously is by harnessing the power of consumer demand.

Foodborne diseases cause a massive health burden and remain a persistent impediment to socio-economic development. The World Health Organization estimates that close to 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from foodborne diseases worldwide. Children under five years of age make up 125,000 of those deaths.

Africa bears the largest per capita burden of foodborne diseases. Every year, more than 91 million people fall ill and 137,000 lose their lives, a toll comparable to the continent’s losses from major infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

In Ethiopia, as in other developing countries, most consumers buy their food from informal markets, attracted by their low prices, freshness, availability of local products and credit services. However, consumers are concerned about the safety of the food they buy from these markets, and they show this in their purchasing behaviour. Research has found that consumers would pay 5–15% more for safety-assured products.

Furthermore, demand for food safety increases with economic development, rising income, urbanization, increased media coverage and education level. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers more conscious of the safety of the food they buy and eat.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to increase the use of appropriate food safety assurance systems to ensure food quality and safety, but challenges include limited infrastructure and human capacity, such as laboratory facilities and trained personnel. A further challenge is that consumers often cannot detect unsafe food.

In contrast, food products developed for export markets receive considerable attention and are subject to higher standards of food safety. Decision-makers understand that meeting international food quality and safety regulatory requirements is a must for building trust among foreign trading partners.

This success has led to attempts to directly adopt some export food safety approaches for food products marketed in the informal market. However, since the settings are so different these approaches rarely work.

An alternative approach that is showing considerable promise is to harness consumers’ concerns about food safety to create greater demand for safe food. This simple approach requires educating consumers and increasing the awareness and capacity of food retailers and producers.

Urban food markets in Africa: Incentivizing food safety using a pull-push approach is a research project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. It develops and tests a novel but simple and practical approach to improving food safety: building consumer demand for safe food, traders’ ability to deliver it and regulator capacity to support it. It is, in short, a pull-push approach.

For the success of this approach, consumers need to be better informed on safe food including choice, purchase, storage and preparation. In addition, traders and producers need to be supported to develop their capacity to provide safe food and regulators need advice to create an enabling environment.

While regional estimates of the incidence of foodborne diseases are available, less is known at the country level. This project will also provide estimates of the incidence of key foodborne diseases in Ethiopia and provide a better understanding of the cost of foodborne diseases, how these diseases manifest and how they can be controlled.

Food safety is one of the key elements of ILRI’s research portfolio. Our approach to food safety is risk-based, identifying foodborne hazards, generating evidence, developing solutions and building the capacity of policymakers to use risk-based approaches to improve food safety in informal markets.

This feature article for World Food Safety Day was written by Beamlak Tesfaye, a communications officer at ILRI, and Theo Knight-Jones, a senior scientist at ILRI. It was originally published by The Reporter.

Visit the ILRI World Food Safety Day 2020 landing page for more information on our research on food safety in informal markets.

Typical milk bar in Kenya

One of Kenya’s many ‘milk bars’ (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Training of milk vendors in Kenya’s informal dairy sector could be a pathway to progressively bring the informal sector under the food safety regulatory systems, says a new study by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute and the International Institute for Development and Environment.

The informal dairy sector in Kenya contributes to nutrition security, health and livelihoods. However, concerns over milk safety have seen the sector de-legitimized. Training and capacity-building of those operating in the sector has the potential to deliver on multiple development outcomes, over and above improved food safety.

The study, which is published in Global Food Security (September 2018), examined the incentives and challenges to operating in the informal dairy sector in two urban areas in Kenya (Eldoret and Kisumu) and the perceived benefits and socio-economics effects of training. A survey of informal dairy vendors and testing of milk was also carried out in the two regions to assess milk safety and handling practices and their relation to training.

It was noted that the informal dairy sector in Kenya is an important source of livelihood opportunities, especially for women. Training of milk vendors improved sales, reduced milk losses and helped expand the businesses of vendors; however, the long-term effects of training on milk quality are not evident. Accessibility and clear incentives to participate in training could maximize impact and sustainability.

Based on this qualitative assessment, it is recommended that rigorous scientific studies be conducted to confirm and measure the magnitude of those impacts on health, nutrition and societal outcomes derived from training and capacity building activities in the informal dairy sector.

Access the journal article, Beyond food safety: Socio-economic effects of training informal dairy vendors in Kenya

Citation
Alonso, S., Muunda, E., Ahlberg, S., Blackmore, E. and Grace, D. 2018. Beyond food safety: Socio-economic effects of training informal dairy vendors in Kenya. Global Food Security 18: 86–92.

ILRI Clippings

The interview below, Could animal-sourced protein really solve the world’s hunger crisis?, of veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was originally published in the Oct 2017 ‘Food and Nutrition Security’ issue of the monthly newsletter for Health for Animals. Both display quote graphics below are by Health for Animals.

Each year, 161 million children under the age of five lack the nutrients they require for their development.

This malnourishment causes stunting—both physical and cognitive—and ultimately costs our world 4.5 trillion US dollars in economic impacts each year.

In a world where extreme poverty has fallen in recent decades, this ‘hidden hunger’ can often be forgotten.

‘With such a huge problem to tackle and FAO’s World Hunger Day on October 16th, we spoke to Dr Delia Grace, Programme Director at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in…

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A4NH annual report 2016 cover

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) is pleased to announce the publication of its 2016 annual report, detailing the accomplishments and developments of the fifth and final year of the program’s first phase. The report highlights research and results from 2016, including

  • the successful expansion of aflasafe, a biocontrol product helping to fight aflatoxin contamination across Africa;
  • the Stories of Change in Nutrition case study series, which shares experiences to help countries understand how an enabling environment can combine with policies and programs to drive nutritional improvement;
  • the first Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week, held in Addis Ababa, which brought together more than 300 participants from around the world to present research and learn from one another;
  • a randomized trial of an integrated nutrition-sensitive agriculture program in Burkina Faso; and
  • an update on the ongoing impacts of biofortification, with more than 140 varieties of 10 crops released in over 30 countries.

While the activities and accomplishments of each research flagship are laid out, readers will also find a spotlight on A4NH projects and programs in Africa, as well as an update on work related to gender.

Download the report

Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

What are the key food safety issues related to livestock production and animal-source foods and what are their potential impacts on human health and nutrition?

Join an upcoming joint Agrilinks and Microlinks webinar on 25 January 2017 at 0900–1100 hours EDT where experts will share effective approaches to improving food safety and quality related to livestock production.

Attendees will learn about improving food safety and quality throughout the livestock value chain including production methods, processing and storage technologies, risk assessments, policy impacts, opportunities for the private sector and consumer education.

  • Hung Nguyen-Viet from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) will pay particular attention to the relationship between animal-source foods and the impact of foodborne disease, while also considering how traditional and gender roles in livestock and fish value chains can impact exposure and risk.
  • Dennis Karamuzi will outline the steps taken by the Government of Rwanda and the Rwanda Dairy Competitiveness Project II to increase the supply of clean milk for rural and urban consumers.
  • Silvia Alonso from ILRI will discuss the role of informal markets in meeting the nutrition needs of the most vulnerable communities and the tension between food safety, livelihoods and access to food that characterize such markets. She will present new research aimed to investigate how ‘light-touch’ interventions in informal dairy markets could give win-win outcomes on health and livelihoods.

Presenters will discuss new actions taking place in development that help provide clean, safe and affordable animal-source foods to poor urban and rural households. In addition, the webinar will touch on the role of animal-source foods in the global burden of foodborne disease and why the safety of animal-source foods plays an important role in food security.

Register for the webinar

ILRI news

tanzanianboywithlargejugofmilk_byeadd_croppedTanzanian boy with large jug of fresh milk (photo credit: East African Dairy Development project).

A useful summary of the future plans of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, DC, has been published. Two of the five flagships of this multi-institutional research program are led or co-led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya. Future work of these two flagships is described below.

‘Beginning in 2012, the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has provided an innovative perspective on the relationships between agriculture, nutrition, and health through research that strengthens the knowledge base and through new partnerships that lead to outcomes. . . . Led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, D.C., A4NH’s research…

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Fishermen and goats at the Niger River

Fishermen and Sahelian goats by the Niger River, in Segou, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

World Water Week in Stockholm is organized annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute and brings together experts from around the world to discuss pertinent issues around water and development.

At the start of this year’s World Water Week, taking place from 28 August to 2 September 2016, the University of Gothenburg, the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation convened a seminar on antimicrobial resistance and linkages between humans, livestock and water in peri-urban areas.

Among the speakers at the seminar was Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Her presentation was based on a report published in July 2016 by the Committee on World Food Security High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition. Grace was a member of the project team that wrote the report.

The presentation begins with an overview of the key role of the livestock sector in sustainable agricultural development and the global rise in demand for animal-source food, a phenomenon dubbed the ‘Livestock Revolution’. Some agriculture-associated challenges of livestock production are then discussed; these include antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses. Cross-cutting and specific recommendations to address these challenges are then put forward.

View the presentation: Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?

Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels

Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels from Mozambique (photo credit: IITA).

A special issue of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) published in July 2016 and sponsored by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) features 12 peer-reviewed scientific articles on aflatoxins in eastern Africa.

The three broad objectives of the special issue are to understand the health consequences of aflatoxins, characterize the extent of the problem and identify key elements to underpin the way forward to mitigation.

The papers, listed below, are all open access and the PDFs are freely available for download at the AJFAND website.

Editorial
Aflatoxins in East Africa: The importance of getting the full picture (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76526)

Understanding the health impacts

Extent and location of the problem

  • Aflatoxin B1 occurrence in millet, sorghum and maize from four agro-ecological zones in Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76499)
  • Prevalence of aflatoxin in feeds and cow milk from five counties in Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76501)
  • Survey of informal milk retailers in Nairobi, Kenya and prevalence of aflatoxin M1 in marketed milk (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76502)
  • Assessment of pre-harvest aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination of maize in Babati District, Tanzania
  • Aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination of marketed maize and maize bran and maize used as animal feed in northern Tanzania
  • Mapping aflatoxin risk from milk consumption using biophysical and socio-economic data: A case study of Kenya (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76503)
  • Examining environmental drivers of spatial variability in aflatoxin accumulation in Kenyan maize: Potential utility in risk prediction models

Finding the way forward to mitigation

  • Farmer perception of moulds and mycotoxins within the Kenya dairy value chain: A gendered analysis (http://hdl.handle.net/10568/76495)
  • A review of agricultural aflatoxin management strategies and emerging innovations in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Potential of lactic acid fermentation in reducing aflatoxin B1 in Tanzania maize-based gruel

ILRI news

Slide2

A High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the science-policy interface of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which is, at the global level, the foremost inclusive and evidence-based international and intergovernmental platform for food security and nutrition.

HLPE reports serve as a common, comprehensive, evidence-based starting point for intergovernmental and international multistakeholder policy debates in CFS. The HLPE draws its studies based on existing research and knowledge and organizes a scientific dialogue, built upon the diversity of disciplines, backgrounds, knowledge systems, diversity of its Steering Committee and Project Teams, and upon open electronic consultations.

HLPE reports are widely used as reference documents within and beyond CFS and the UN system, by the scientific community as well as by political decision-makers and stakeholders, at international, regional and national levels.

In October 2014, the CFS requested the HLPE to prepare a…

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Mozambique, Tete province, Pacassa village

Harvested maize in Tete Province, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

 

As part of celebrations in Nairobi last week to mark Europe Day 2015, the Finland-funded FoodAfrica program took part in an exhibition at the residence of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya where several project outputs were showcased.

FoodAfrica is a research and development program aimed at providing new knowledge and tools for researchers, decision-makers and farmers towards improved local food security. The program works in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Uganda.

Sara Ahlberg, a Finnish associate professional officer and PhD student attached to the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, presented a poster that highlighted research approaches by the FoodAfrica program to reduce the risk of mycotoxins in the feed-dairy value chain in Kenya, namely,

  • Integrated risk and economic assessment of the Kenyan feed-dairy chain
  • Investigation of technologies and strategies to reduce mycotoxin risk in the feed-dairy chain
  • Impact assessment of a package of post-harvest strategies for reducing aflatoxins in maize

View the poster, FoodAfrica – Reducing risk of mycotoxins

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