The feeding of humanity, the majority of which now lives in cities worldwide, involves a complex system of ecological, social and economic relationships. The world community has acknowledged that the human right to food must be progressively realized despite the enormous challenges and inequities that exist in the food systems of both rich and poor countries. The diverse array of present “food systems” is changing rapidly on a global scale and will be transformed even more rapidly as a result of powerful forces. This transformation has become a major issue for debate amongst traditional and non-traditional actors and institutions engaged in agriculture.
Similar to many cities in developing countries, population growth in Mbale city has made access to food a critical issue since the largest proportion of the population depend on the market for their food. One of the challenges Uganda faces include adoption of food safety practices along the food supply chain, yet a safe food chain contributes to better health, and hence increased productivity and improved livelihood. Uganda is thus burdened with preventable food-borne illnesses which mainly results from poor food production and handling practices. For instance, it is reported that 65% of all cases of most diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E, diarrhea and typhoid treated in hospitals and clinics are food safety and sanitation related (Okenu, 2010). All these can be attributed to food safety gaps resulting from poor food production practices, post -harvest handling practices, processing, and storage, transportation, retailing and handling in homes.
Mbale like in other Ugandan cities, there are challenges related to how fruits and vegetables are produced, transported, sorted, processed, and marketed. Our food value chain is characterized by malpractices and poor sanitation brought about mainly by lack of awareness and poor market infrastructure necessary for food safety. This leads to the risk of our fruits and vegetables to be contaminated with germs, chemicals and other physical materials that render food unsafe for consumption.
For that reason, Rikolto, Consumer Education Trust and Mbale City agreed through a series of meetings with the city market managers and vendors to address challenges of food safety they faced at their respective selling points to support the improvement of their stalls (Smart Stalls) with basic infrastructure as indicated in the preview diagram below with the motive of increasing access to healthy, sustainable and nutritious fruits to all city dwellers and create an inclusive linkage with the rural and peri-urban producers/ suppliers. Additional activities to reinforce this intervention include: awareness campaigns on food safety through media, capacity enhancement of city authorities and market vendors in food safety , constructive stakeholder dialogues, policy research and advocacy and advisory services on socio-economic issues through partnerships for effective policies and framework to enhance consumers’ safety and welfare, ethical business practice, sustainable consumption, hygiene practices at the market, development of market rules and regulations.