Seeing Local Markets Anew: EatSafe’s Initiative to Reduce Food Waste and Improve Food Safety
Efforts that seek to improve food safety and reduce food waste often have mutual benefits: practices that improve the safety of foods also likely contribute to less food waste. While product quality and freshness may be better understood by value chain actors, increased food safety and lowered food waste should also be a focus for their significant impacts on the health and well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment. This is particularly true in traditional markets found in low- and middle-income countries. These markets are critical to food security and livelihoods for millions of people globally, but they also represent a low-hanging fruit for improvements in food safety and food waste. We’ve previously written about the specific actions that market actors can take to decrease food waste while maintaining the safety of foods. But what does that look like in practice? Feed the Future’s Evidence and Action Towards Safe, Nutritious Foods (EatSafe)’s Market Improvement Initiative (MII) is a case in point.
This initiative, co-led by the local government, uses collective action to bring local stakeholders together to work as a task force towards a common goal— the improved health and safety of a local traditional market in Hawassa, Ethiopia. The task force answers the growing realization that effective food systems efforts, such as food loss and waste initiatives, work best when built around collaborative and coordinated sub-national efforts. The MII operationalizes the concept of localizing the locus of interventions and sharing the responsibility of these efforts in the informal and domestic sector.
The MII task force launched in May 2023, and its membership spans across sectors, including government, associations, industry, hospitality, academia, agriculture, non-governmental organizations and market actors. Building on a shared understanding of the task at hand, the MII’s latest activity is the conducting of a market audit and the identification of areas in the market needing investment and development. Key to these efforts are infrastructure improvements related to water, sanitation and hygiene. Improved toilet facilities, waste management and water access are all interventions in the enabling environment that are linked to improved food safety and reduced waste. In practice, the MII has the ability to reach over 10,000 consumers on “market days,” the busiest days of the week while building the capacity of key market actors, like vendors and consumers.
During a recent group visit to the market, MII member Mr. Temesgen Esrael, Aroge Market kebele representative, reflected on seeing the interplay between food safety and food waste anew:
“I have seen a lot of new things, which I never focused and realized in my previous frequent visits. [A] lot of wastes accumulated over there, which surprised and touched me a lot. And openly speaking, I felt shame as a leader when [I was shown] a woman cooking food over the waste.”
Stories like these, narrated in Episode 11 of USAID’s Kitchen Sink: Food Loss and Waste Podcast, are critical to increasing awareness about the importance of food waste and food safety and identifying the opportunities that exist for improvements. There are many ways in which both issues can be improved, such as a better understanding of hazard points; the implementation of improved handling and management practices; improvements of the enabling environment via the actions of incentivized stakeholders; and the identification and development of alternative pathways for food that’s no longer fit for purpose. These types of efforts have resounding, positive impacts on nutrition and food security.
Alongside the MII, EatSafe in Ethiopia has two other interventions: a vendor training course, which trains traditional market vendors on food safety best practices; and a motivational campaign, to educate and engage consumers about food safety and nutrition.
For more information on EatSafe, visit www.gainhealth.org/EatSafe.
This blog was made possible through support provided by Feed The Future through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of Agreement #7200AA19CA00010. The opinions expressed herein are those of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.