Let’s keep it informal!

In the breakout session on “Leveraging Value Chains for better nutrition and food safety: Lessons for CGIAR Research”, Delia Grace from ILRI in Nairobi Kenya highlighted the importance of the informal sector. Research indicates that in many low income countries, e.g. milk is marketed via informal markets and this trend to supermarkets is not valid for all countries – also not with regards to consumer preferences. Furthermore the informal sector is highly relevant for women who can sell their products in an informal way, but at the same time highly risky in terms of food safety. Is the formal sector better? The answer clearly is no – it is not necessarily better. The informal market is often persisting. Even with regards to food safety, because sometimes in supermarkets the electricity is turned off etc. In 8 out of 10 tested markets and supermarkets for animal products, the informal market was actually better. Nonetheless food safety is important, but since conventional food safety regulations failed to be integrated in informal markets. It was suggested to actually shift the research focus to human health outcomes, rather than the presence of hazards. In a study which focused on the differences between traders who sell safe dairy sweets and those who sell risky sweets – it was found that the traditional food security focus on hygiene in comparison to the risk- based food security found that next to hygiene problems in the selling area, there were also problems in the storage of the ingredients. Furthermore, it was explained that “command and control” do not work – the turnout might be even the opposite. Instead incentive based approaches should be used to increase food safety along the value chain. … so yes, lets keep it informal, but make it more secure – food secure!


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