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Local vendors, not supermarkets, are key to Africa’s food security

Food Safety book cover

A book launched in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday has lots to say to nutritionists and policymakers and government officials in Africa inclined to view the continent’s many ‘informal’ food markets with dismay. They’re not going away anytime soon, and they’re safer than they look. And they can be made even safer with the right support, the book reports. 

‘Traditional markets sell more than 85 percent of the food consumed in sub-Saharan Africa, and rather than replacing them with Western-style supermarkets, governments should train local vendors to improve food safety, researchers say.

‘Contrary to popular conceptions, open-air local markets often have safer milk and meat than supermarkets in much of Africa, according to a book released on Tuesday by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘Local vendors offer fresher products to several hundred million low-income consumers, and many supermarkets still do not have well-regulated supply chains or stable refrigeration systems to prevent contamination.

Simple food safety training for informal vendors can limit the spread of SARS, avian influenza, tuberculosis and pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli, said the book, “Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan Africa“.

‘Outdoor vendors also boost local economies and tend to source products from neighboring farmers, rather than international markets.

We are wrong to think that we can just adopt solutions developed in wealthy countries that favor large commercial operations over small producers,” ILRI scientist Delia Grace said in a statement.

“That will just exacerbate hunger and further limit money earning options for the poor.”. . .

Even as incomes rise in much of Africa, informal markets are still expected to meet between 50 and 70 percent of consumer demand by 2040.

Thus, policymakers need to work with market traders and consumers to improve food safety, rather than hope sub-Saharan Africa follows the same development trajectory as the West, where large stores have replaced local stalls.

Informal markets are growing, not shrinking, across the developing world and in many ways mirror the ‘locavore’ trend occurring in wealthy countries,” said ILRI’s Grace.

Read the whole article at Reuters: Local vendors, not supermarkets, key to Africa food security, 27 Jan 2015.

Access the book: Food safety and informal markets: Animal products in sub-Saharan Africa, edited by Kristina Roesel and Delia Grace, published by Routledge, 284 pages, Jan 2015.

About ILRI
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock . The products generated by ILRI and its partners help people in developing countries enhance their livestock-dependent livelihoods, health and environments. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other offices in Southern and West Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia. http://www.ilri.org

About A4NH
The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) helps realize the potential of agricultural development to deliver gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to the poor. This program is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). a4nh.cgiar.org

One thought on “Local vendors, not supermarkets, are key to Africa’s food security

  1. Indeed. It is a very glad to hear that. I hope that more and more will be informed/educated on the importance of food safety, especially to third world countries were the modern methods of food preservation is either not available or not properly introduced.

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