By Bernard Bwambale, Nutrition Program Manager, KRC Uganda.
As early as 2014 when KRC began to work around the issue of urban Food Systems, Street Food Vending became our major entry point into the study of the working conditions of street food vendors in Uganda. At the time, it became very clear that street food vendors were operating in a legally antagonistic environment, and against the 1935, Public Health Act. The old law outlaws the hawking of food on the street.
Nevertheless, times have changed and street food vendors now occupy significant space in informal urban food systems. Through continued advocacy on inclusive food systems and inclusive urban spaces for vulnerable groups, KRC has won partial gains in mobilizing, organizing and eventual recognition of street food vendors as indispensable actors in urban food systems.i
This budding work has continued to this day. In our new engagement with Health Food Africa and Hivos in the Fort Portal Food System Lab, KRC is building the capacity of the street food vendors to build strong and resilient street food businesses that can serve safe and nutritious food to the growing urban population and yet remain stable during socio-economic shocks like the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2021.
From the urban perspective, the focus has been to prevent consumption of unsafe food in public eating places. There are many factors leading to the problem of unsafe food but poor hygiene and sanitation could be the main factors responsible for food contaminations.
Apparently, many sections of the urban poor and even the middle-income earners meet their food needs from street food prepared and served by vendors. However, a food safety study of food markets, public eating places and abattoirs in Fort-Portal City revealed appalling food handling working conditions is some of the places (KRC 2021). Another study entitled, “We are Hungry “conducted by KRC in 2020 during the peak of COVID-19 also revealed that women street food vendors had their business completely run down during the lockdown.
Based on the above, KRC with funding from Iles de Paix and HIVOS conducted a training of 150 street food vendors from Fort Portal Tourism City in food safety. The training was meant to strengthen the capacity of the Street food vendors in areas of food hygiene to improve the food safety standards. Also, to strengthen their operational and finance management of their businesses, the vendors were trained in management and entrepreneurship.
At the closure of the training, the street food ventures and KRC agreed to the following commitments.
- Vendors to be mobilized to participate in a bimonthly cleaning of markets and food spaces in the city
- The vendors shall be mobilized to fundraise resources to purchase garbage collection buckets or dust bins at the different streets
- The vendors shall adhere to the food safety protocols as stipulated by the city authorities
- The vendors’ leaders together with health inspectors shall take lead in routine inspections of the vendors’ activities to ensure adherence to the food safety standards
- KRC to continue sensitizing the vendors on food safety and support them to improve in areas that require attention.
- The vendors to remobilize themselves to buy aprons for each of the members to ensure uniformity and hygiene on the street
- The Vendors’ SACCO to encourage all the vendors to join the Vendors association
- KRC to continuously conduct assessments of the vendors to record progress in adopting to food safety standards in order to inform further programming
- KRC together with other CSOs to continuously conduct re fresher trainings on food safety to vendors and restaurant owners
As a result of initial mobilization and organizing, the vendors reported that currently, they have a bigger advocacy platform than before and the Vendors’ SACCO has enabled many of them to resume their businesses during the post COVID-19 times.
KRC Uganda, 2020. “We are hungry”. Food vendors in Fort–Portal counting the cost of COVID–19 pandemic lockdown. Fort Portal City, Uganda
KRC Uganda, 2021. Report on the health and food safety inspection of food markets, public eating places and abattoirs. Fort Portal City, Uganda