Win-wins in Food Safety: Market-based Interventions That Deliver Safer Food, Better Nutrition and Improved Livelihoods
This post was written by Dr. Silvia Alonso, scientist in the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
One can quite confidently say, if you were Kenyan, you would surely drink milk. Milk is consumed by virtually everyone, and produced by many. As a consumer of milk, you can choose between formally processed (packaged) milk, traditionally pasteurized milk, and raw milk — all are available in the markets. While all of these choices are available to you, as an average Kenyan consumer, however, you are likely to prefer raw or boiled milk, because of its taste. Options narrow further when, as a poor consumer, you are likely only able to afford raw milk. While, in general, unprocessed milk poses a higher health risk compared to processed milk, it is still one of the richest sources of nutrients for poor children and other vulnerable groups. The same is true for other animal source foods sold and consumed in low- and middle-income countries.
Risky foods with the most nutrients: this dichotomy is at the heart of ILRI’s work on food safety. Where food brings both risks and benefits to different spheres of people’s lives, we must look at the problems with wide-angle lenses to find the strategies that will promote food safety while supporting the markets on which most people depend for their incomes and nutrition needs. The usual stick-based interventions to food safety — involving inspection, repression and suspension of those selling in the informal markets — have yielded limited improvements to food safety in Africa, can be inequitable and can reduce food availability. Incentive-based market interventions, which support rather than repress the informal markets, show greater potential to deliver more and better food to consumers and preserve livelihoods of the sellers. Developing, piloting and assessing the scaling potential of such market-based interventions is at the center of the “impact that scales” activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’s (A4NH) Food Safety flagship, which ILRI leads. The MoreMilk: Making the Most of Milk project, for example, looks at generating evidence on the health and nutrition impacts and the potential for scale and sustainability of a scheme to train and certify dairy traders in the informal sector. Developed and pioneered in Kenya in 2006, the training and certification scheme has been adapted and adopted in other places, such as Assam State in India. The lessons learned will help us understand the conditions and mechanisms through which market interventions can deliver on health, nutrition and livelihoods.