Leveraging partnerships and collective agency to improve food safety in Uganda


By:Bernard Bwambale, Nutrition Program Manager, KRC Uganda
 Francis Musinguzi, Information, Research and Communication, KRC Uganda

The Fort Portal Food System Lab undertakes a multistakeholder approach through strategic partnerships to address inherent bottlenecks to sufficient supply of healthy and safe foods to the population.

Food is inarguably a public good available to all people and this assertion is the foundation of the multistakeholder nature of food systems. The Fort Portal Food System Lab is leveraging on the multistakeholder approach through strategic partnerships to address the inherent bottlenecks to sufficient supply of healthy and safe foods to the population. Food safety problems occur at every step of food handling. So, in order to ensure that our food products are safe, it requires that all stakeholders in the food system, from the producer to consumer, work in harmony to design workable solutions.

FSL Partners’ meeting during the fourth Food System Lab meeting.FSL Partners’ meeting during the fourth Food System Lab meeting.

Accordingly, from the inception of the Food Systems Lab project, KRC Uganda has worked to deepen partnerships in transforming food systems in the Fort Portal area. For instance, KRC Uganda uses Food Lab Stakeholder Workshops to converge ideas aimed at improving the food system. The recent FSL Workshop for example, emphasized the need to build effective partnerships as a solution to advancing collective agency in food systems transformation. Effective partnerships harness and benefit from the diversity of resources brought together by different partners to achieve a common goal. The following layers of stakeholders form a formidable partnership for the Fort Portal FSL.

Farmers

KRC trains farming households to take-up agroecological farming methods aimed at promoting access and availability of safe food to the consumers. Through our farm extension model, KRC also trains farmers in safe postharvest practices to prevent food contamination. There is a growing movement of farmers who are setting up cottages industries to add value to crops and livestock products, and their capacities have been strengthened in value addition. In general, agroecological methods provide primordial prevention of food safety challenges through reduced use of
pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and antibiotics.

Food processors

KRC builds capacity of food processors in understanding and adherence to food safety protocols, food handling, food quality control and facilitates linkages for food safety certification for cottage food processors.

Food vendors

Street Food Vendors have been a special partner since KRC launched into the Food Lab discourse. KRC builds capacity of street food vendors in food handling, food hygiene and sanitation, and jointly conducts monitoring and inspections with urban authorities to ensure safety of street food.

Food ambassadors

Food ambassadors are influential leaders identified to influence behaviour change of their communities towards health diets. KRC empowers them with information on nutrition, food safety and healthy living. This information is then cascaded to their communities.

Coalition of the Willing (CoW)

CoW is a consumer advocacy group. KRC strengthens their capacity in areas of food systems governance and equips them with research evidence to support their advocacy initiatives. In general, the Coalition of the Willing is supported to have a formidable consumer voice

Civil Society Organizations

Together with other civil society actors, KRC is engaged in joint advocacy, and resource mobilization. CSO partnership is essential for expanding outreach, leveraging on expertise, community mobilization and engagement.

Local government

In the FSL, KRC works with Kabarole District Local Government and the Fort Portal City Authority in local advocacy, joint planning, coordination, monitoring, supervision and enforcement.

Speaker for Fort Portal Tourism City, Hon. Albert Aheebwa, at the Fort Portal Food System Lab Workshop

Researchers and academia

KRC works with Mountains of the Moon University and National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO Rwebitaba), Dr. Clovis Kabaseke and Professor Moses Muhumuza on the subject of agroecology. KRC collaborates with researchers and academia for joint research, mapping, knowledge building and dissemination.

Media

Media partners spearhead the agenda setting aspect of the Fort Portal FSL. KRC has trained local and national media practitioners in understanding food systems and equipped with knowledge to continually relay that information on radio, television and in print.

Effectiveness of our partnerships

The success of our partnerships is reflected in the outcomes of the activities of the FSL. The FSL Workshops for instance serve as a convergence of minds, drawn from a range of food system stakeholders.

During the fourth FSL Workshop held on the 23rd February, 2022 gathered stakeholders who made the following deliberations on the state of food safety in Fort Portal City and its hinterland, Kabarole District.

  • It was noted that most of the food being produced currently has high levels of synthetic chemical compounds and heavy metals that are harmful to the health of the population. The actors related this to insufficient information available to the community on appropriate usage of chemicals in food production, processing and preservation. It was also observed that farmers and other actors in the food system have limited available safer options for improving food production, processing and preservation.
  • It was noted that regulations and inspection of food industries by government is ineffective and is a major risk factor to increasing food safety failures in the region. one area that lacks government oversight is the area of poor post-harvest handling practices.
  • There is poor sanitation and hygienic practices in public markets, street food vending places and public eating places within Fort Portal City and Kabarole District was highlighted as a major impediment to the development of a sustainable food systems, with direct consequences to consumer health and food tourism industry.
  • Food safety concerns were noted to have affected food export where some products like maize and eggs experienced a ban from in being exported in Kenya and Burundi, citing presence of heavy metals and aflatoxins.

Recommendations

In order to improve the food safety situation, the stakeholders thus resolved that there is urgent need for mass community sensitization on food safety and optimal food handling at all levels of the food systems. The Media was recommended to support in the mass community awareness campaigns so as to reach out this message. It was also resolved that a food safety ordinance be developed to provide a legal framework on issues of food safety in Fort Portal City and Kabarole District.  A supportive resolution was made to the stakeholders to institute a food safety committee that will be responsible for the enforcement of the proposed food safety ordinance and related food safety protocols within the city and its hinterland. A deliberate assessment of the food safety standards in the markets, abattoirs, processing units and public eating places was proposed to enable thorough planning and actions to improve food safety. Lastly, the health inspectors and commercial officers were tasked to ensure routine inspection of the food points and liaise with Uganda Bureau of standards (UNBS) to enhance food processing regulations in the region.

The stakeholders stressed that for the above actions to be attainable and realistic, an enabling environment and collective agency to ensure partnership frameworks towards the food systems transformation.

References

KRC Uganda, 2022. The 4th Fort Portal FSL Workshop report. Leveraging Partnership for Collective Action in Food System Governance to Improve Food Safety.

Wageningen Economic Research, 2018. The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food.  https://knowledge4food.net/food-systems-approach-report/


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