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Towards professionalizing—not criminalizing—informal sellers of milk and meat in poor countries


ManWithMilkCansOnMotorcycleInTanzania

Transporting fresh milk by motorcycle in Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Ben Lukuyu).

‘. . . Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners have developed and piloted an institutional innovation—a training, certification and branding scheme for informal value chain actors—with good potential to improve the safety of animal-source foods sold in informal markets.

‘Past development policy often focused on formal markets, which at best meant neglect of informal markets and often resulted in harassment and penalties for informal agents.

While in the long term markets are likely to formalize, in the short term, interventions that seek to suppress informal markets can be both ineffective and antipoor.

‘Recent evidence suggests that a more constructive, incentive-based approach to informal markets could improve their contribution to economic development as well as increase compliance with standards in areas such as the environment, public health, and labor.

‘There is a growing recognition of the importance of food safety in developing countries. Forthcoming work by the World Health Organization Foodborne Diseases Burden Epidemiology Reference Group estimates that around 25 per cent of all diarrhea is food borne. As diarrhea is usually among the top three infectious diseases in developing countries, this represents an enormous health burden.

Most food-borne disease is associated with animal-source foods and produce.

‘. . . [I]n developing countries government systems to support food safety are often still emerging, and consumers’ choices may be limited by income and information, which means that the most important incentives to safe production—private demand and effective private or public regulation—are lacking. New approaches to food safety that support and are supported by a range of incentives—social, market, or regulatory based—need to be developed to encourage farmers and other value chain actors to produce quality and safe products.

‘Because of the high level of involvement of the poor and women in producing for, and selling in, informal markets, agricultural research and development interventions that aim to improve their livelihoods have engaged with these informal markets. But in comparison to either smallholder producers or formal-sector food chains, informal markets have received little attention in programs or policy.

This paper looks at the potential of one type of institutional innovation—a training, certification and branding scheme for traders—to contribute to improved food safety outcomes in informal markets for animal-source foods.

‘Evidence from risk analyses and other studies of livestock value chains have found that actors whose roles include aggregating product from many producers—for example, traders, processors, chilling plants, slaughterhouses—play a key role in maintaining and improving the quality of food, and they also may be easier to reach since there are fewer of them compared to either producers or consumers. The intervention, which emerged from research on smallholder dairy production and marketing in Kenya, has been adapted for milk traders in India and Tanzania and butchers in Nigeria.

It is based on the hypothesis that professionalizing rather than criminalizing informal-market actors improves food safety outcomes while at the same time improving nutrition and protecting and enhancing important sources of income and employment for the poor. The approach also may be applicable to formal-sector actors who are currently unable to ensure food safety.

‘Building on the experiences of the pilot studies, this paper develops the theory of change that explains how the intervention is expected to work and identifies the assumptions that underlie its successful implementation. . . . It complements work using theory-based approaches to evaluate value chain interventions, in particular in terms of spelling out the linkages between agricultural interventions and improvements in health and nutrition outcomes. . . .’

More information
Read the whole theory of change analysis—IFPRI Discussion Paper 01451, July 2015: How will training traders contribute to improved food safety in informal markets for meat and milk? A theory of change analysis, by Nancy Johnson, of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); John Mayne, independent advisor on public-sector performance; Delia Grace, leader of the agriculture-associated diseases flagship of A4NH and of ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonosis program; and Amanda Wyatt, of A4NH.

Read more on ILRI’s AgHealth site.

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