nri logo
“NRI's mission is to discover, apply and share knowledge in support of global
food security, sustainable development and poverty reduction”
"Knowledge to feed the world"

Queens Anniversary Prizes 2015

resource subscribe
THE Award banner s
WinnerPrint web 216

Street foods and informally vended food in Africa

pic1The dramatic growth of urban populations in developing countries provides both opportunities and risks for resource-poor groups in urban and peri-urban environments. By 2020, the global population is predicted to reach 7.6 billion and 98% of the projected growth will take place in developing countries. In particular, the developing world's urban populations will double, reaching 3.4 billion. This increase in the urban population poses great challenges to food systems and how they are managed. Rapid urbanization has led urban services to be stretched beyond their limits, resulting in inadequate supplies of potable water, sewage disposal and other necessary services. Food legislation, regulation and enforcement are constantly striving to reflect changing circumstances.

A feature of the urbanization process has been the development of informal food supply systems. Resource-poor groups have developed livelihood strategies with limited capital assets to meet opportunities in urban areas. This is typified by the increase in ready-to-eat food prepared and sold by street food vendors. However, while street food vending can be an effective way of providing low cost nutrition to urban populations, it can also pose risks to health, in particular for the young, the elderly and those with HIV/AIDS.

A brief history of the projects and how the approach evolved

pic2There have been four projects on street food and informally vended foods that have been funded by the DFID Crop Post Harvest Programme. These projects have been either managed or jointed managed by NRI in collaboration with over 22 over partner organisations in Africa (Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and South Asia (India). The first project was a one year preliminary study in Accra, Ghana (1999 to 2000). This was initially primarily a food safety investigation but the project team decided to focus resources on determining the importance of the sector to the urban economy of Accra with a smaller food safety survey.These findings were disseminated to policy makers at the local and national government level who subsequently formed a street food working group consisting of policy makers in Ghana to provide support to the sector and improve consumer health. This project was followed by a second one in Ghana (2002 to 2004) that sought to formalise the development of the coalition partnership using the innovation systems approach. This approach was a natural progression from the earlier project and was also formerly part of the DFID Crop Post Harvest Programme strategy for research proposals. A third project (2002 to 2004) on informal vended foods was simultaneously funded by the programme in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Coalition partnerships in Harare and Lusaka sought to carryout action research to explore the issues of government support for unlicensed vendors, economic decline, rapid urbanisation, high unemployment and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Recently a fourth project (2005 to 2006) is seeking to combine the experiences and knowledge gain previously in Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe while at the same time introducing a fourth coalition partnership in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. The four coalitions will use the 'knowledge management' approach to explore ways that institutions and organisations manage and share knowledge. They will jointly develop a series of 'modules' that document the food safety management approach developed by the coalitions to facilitate other towns and cities who wish to explore ways of improving the livelihoods of vendors and consumer health.

Projects on street food and informally vended foods

  • Project 1: (one year; 1999 to 2000): Ghana
  • Project 2: (two years; 2002 to 2004): Ghana
  • Project 3: (two years; 2002 to 2004): Zambia and Zimbabwe
  • Project 4: (one year; 2005 to 2006): India, Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Publications on Street Foods

Tomlins, K.I., Johnson, P.N., Obeng-Aseidu, P., Myhara, B. and Greenhalgh, P. (2002) Enhancing product quality: Street food in Ghana: a source of income, but not without its hazards. PhAction News 5.

Myhara, M., Tomlins, K.I., Johnson, P.N., Obeng-Asiedu, P. and Greenhalgh, P. (2000) Implementation of quality management systems to control food safety hazards of street-vended foods in Ghana. Poster presented at a forum organized by Food Control and Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, 4-5 December 2000, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA. [PDF 1 Mb]

Hall. A.J., Yoganand, B., Sulaiman, R.V., and Clark, N.G. (2003) Post harvest innovations in innovation: reflections on partnershup and learning, DFID Crop Post-harvest programme, South Asia, Patancheru 502 324, Andhra Pradesh, India and Natural Resources International Ltd, Aylesford, UK, 180pp. ISBN 0-9539274-8-2

 

  • Project 1: Ghana Open or Close

    Enhancing the food security of the peri-urban and urban poor through improvements to the quality, safety and economics of street-vended foods in Ghana

    Duration of project: 1st November 1999 to 31st October 2000

    This project was managed by NRI in collaboration with the Food Research Institute, Ghana, and the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Ghana, Ghana. It was funded by the Department for International Development, (project code R7493) (DFID) Crops Post-Harvest Programme.

    Project summary and outputs

    proj1pic1Street-vended and informally vended food can contribute significantly to the food security of those involved in its production, particularly suppliers of raw produce, food processors and vendors. Women are often owners or employees of street food businesses. In certain countries (Benin, Ghana, Lesotho, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo), they represent 70 to 90% of vendors. In Ghana and most developing countries, most women sell food in the street primarily to improve the food security of their household and also to have some degree of financial independence.

    Despite its growing presence, it is a sector that has rarely been the focus of strategic research initiatives that determine the importance and potential hazards of street-vended food, and what contribution it makes to the livelihoods of the urban and peri-urban poor (both producers and consumers).

    A one-year preliminary study was conducted with the aim of enhancing the food security of the peri-urban and urban poor through improvements to the quality, safety and economics of street-vended foods in Accra, Ghana. A mini-census and a survey of 334 street vendors indicated that the street-food sector contributed significantly to the economy of Accra. It employs over 60,000 people and has an estimated annual turnover of over US$100 million with an annual profit of US$24 million. This was comparable to the findings from other studies in cities such as Calcutta; 130,000 street-vendors make an estimated annual profit of nearly US$100 million. In Accra, most (94%) of the vendors were women, who had minimal or no education, 75% did not pay taxes and most did not belong to vendors associations.

    pic3In this project, ninety-six street-vended food samples (waakye, fufu and salad) were analysed for contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides and mycotoxins) and microorganisms. This preliminary study found evidence of heavy metal (lead) contamination in waakye, a popular Ghanaian dish made from rice and cowpea, and in fufu, a dish made from pounded cooked cassava and yam. Lead can inhibit children's learning abilities and affect their behaviour, even if consumed in very small amounts. Other street-vended foods analysed (maize and salad) had minimal heavy metal and pesticide contamination. Possible sources of heavy metal contamination include metal pots, pans and utensils, since these are manufactured locally in foundries with limited facilities operated by staff with poor education. Other sources include airborne (leaded petrol) pollution, water and soil. Low but non-hazardous levels of the heavy metal cadmium, which can cause kidney failure, were also detected in many street-vended food samples.

    Maize is an important ingredient in many street foods in Ghana and can be contaminated with mycotoxins, formed when moulds grow. While mycotoxins (specifically aflatoxins) were not detected in this study, farmers and traders can reduce its occurrence by ensuring the product is dried before storage.

    The hygiene of street-vended food appeared to have deteriorated since an earlier survey funded by FAO between 1994 and 1997. For waakye (rice and beans) in particular, bacteriological counts of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens were higher than the last survey. Salmonella was not detected in any of the samples. The elderly and very young are particularly susceptible to the effects of these microorganisms. Waakye may be contaminated because the vendors cook it early in morning and then store it at ambient temperature for the rest of the day. The hygiene of street-vended food can be improved if vendors receive training in basic hygiene skills. To support this, access to clean water, proper disposal of sewage, regular refuse collection and refrigeration is required. A commercial food company (Unilever) in Ghana, however, has funded the training of over 4,000 vendors in basic hygiene in return for promoting their products.

    A workshop in Ghana brought together other parts of the sector. This included food legislation, regulation and enforcement, education and views of street-food vendor organizations. The findings of the study received much media coverage and generated public discussion in Ghana. A governmental Street Food Working Group headed by the Ministry of Science, Environment and Technology was formed directly as a result of this project.

     

  • Project 2: Ghana Open or Close

    Developing food safety strategies and procedures through reduction of food hazards in street-vended foods to improve food security for consumers, street food vendors and input suppliers

    Duration of project: 1st February 2003 to 31st December 2004

    This project is jointly managed by NRI, UK and the Food Research Institute, Ghana. It is funded by the DFID Crop Post-Harvest Programme (CPHP).

    Project summary and outputs

    pic4The livelihoods of those in the informal street food sector and the health of consumers could be jeopardized if problems of food safety are not addressed. Loss in public confidence in street foods will not only jeopardize incomes of vendors but also of their employees, and of producers and traders of inputs.

    The project, through an enabling process, sought to improve the livelihoods of vendors and health of consumers. This was achieved through a successful coalition partnership approach comprising street vendor NGOs, local authorities, food standards authorities, research institutions, and food laboratories. The coalition began during an earlier CPHP project (Enhancing the food security of the peri-urban and urban poor through improvements to the quality, safety and economics of street-vended foods in Ghana - R7493) and was successfully formalized during this project; new partners joined the coalition and some stakeholders/agencies substantially enhanced this project.

    The coalition explored the wider framework in which the policies, institutional linkages and food laws associated with street vending were carried out and by determining the sources and extent of food safety hazards that could jeopardise livelihoods and consumer health. It is anticipated that the coalition will sustainably address future food safety issues in Ghana.

    pic5The research partnership developed strategies that could be used to control identified food safety hazards in an economical and socially-acceptable manner. A food safety baseline study indicated variations between markets and vendors selling different food types. Microbiological studies indicated that fufu (pounded cassava) was more at risk than others. Analysis of heavy metal residues indicated that concentrations of the heavy metal lead in street foods were generally low but there may be issues concerning the methodology used to manufacture traditional cooking pots by informal foundries. Promotion materials on food safety to educate both consumers and vendors were developed. These included four TV documentaries and billboards by the Food and Drugs Board of Ghana (with UNIDO funding), four posters and training manuals for Environmental Health Officers and street vendor NGOs. Nearly 300 vendors were trained but falls substantially short of the estimated 60000 vendors in Accra. A survey of 265 street food vendors highlighted that many had limited understanding of their business finances and this hindered the benefits of training. A survey of 530 consumers indicated that most consumers did not associate unsafe food with food borne illnesses. New male dominated street food vending businesses, known as 'check-check food vendors' have recently arisen but the food safety issues are similar and need to be addressed.

    The project successfully contributed to developing new knowledge on food safety issues, how information is managed and issues relating to how street vendors take up this new knowledge. It has also illustrated new challenges if this new knowledge is to be adapted successfully and in a sustainable way to improve livelihoods of the vendors and the health of consumers. For more information about this project please click here [PDF 948Kb].

    Publicity Billboards in Accra to promote consumer awareness of food safety

    proj2pic1 proj2pic2 proj2pic3
    Consuming food in a hygienic environment Purchasing food in a hygienic environment Preparing food in a hygienic environment

    Coalition partnership for the project:

    Natural Resources Institute, The University of Greenwich at Medway, UK (Mr Keith Tomlins - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Food Research Institute, Accra, Ghana (Dr P-N T Johnson - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Food & Drugs Board of Ghana, Accra (Mr K. van Ess - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    University of Ghana , Legon (Dr G. T-M Kwadzo - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana (Dr J. A. M. Awudza, Department of Chemistry - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Dr W.O. Ellis, Department of Biochemistry - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana (Prof A.K. Nyarko, Clinical Pathology Unit This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Dr K.K. Addo, Bacteriology Unit - e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Accra (Mr Aryeetey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, P.O Box 1947, Kumasi, Ghana (Mr B F Yeboah)

    Ghana Traditional Caterers Association, Box 110, Burden Powell Hall, Accra (Mr E. K. Apraku, Chairman)

  • Project 3: Zambia and Zimbabwe Open or Close

    Improving food safety of informally vended foods in Southern Africa

    Duration of project: 1st February 2003 to 31st December 2004

    This project is jointly managed by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), UK, National Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research (NISIR), Zambia, and City Health Department (CHD), Zimbabwe. It is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) Crops Post Harvest Programme (CPHP).

    Project summary and outputs

    proj3pic1Some markets have only one tap for a market of 15,000 stalls.

    Informal food vending is illegal in Zambia and Zimbabwe, unlicensed vendors are excluded from government support, and chased away from vending sites. However, economic decline, rapid urbanization, high unemployment and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic have resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal food sellers, and recognition by governments of both countries of the need for different approaches to the issue of food sold on the streets. The overall objectives of the work are to improve the safety of informally traded food consumed by low-income groups, and improve access to income through informally vended food for urban poor in Harare and Lusaka.

    Prior to the project little was known about the status of the informal food vending sector in Lusaka or Harare making it difficult to convince policy makers and implementing agencies of the importance of the sector either in terms of public health issues or contribution to livelihoods. This project established vending of cooked food is well established in Lusaka with 5,355 vendors operating around the city. Harsh economic conditions in Harare have made cooked food vending a growth industry, with 1,100 vendors around the city. Cooked food vending was found to provide a major source of employment, income and nutritional intake for the urban poor in Lusaka. Collectively the vendors employ over 16,000 people, serve more than 81 million meals of nshima and beef stew per year, and make an annual profit of approximately £5.5 million pounds. Individual profits are highly variable with some vendors making as little as £0.1 per day, while the most successful businesses can make as much as £17 per day. Cooked food vending is of vital importance for female headed households in both cities with over 80% of vendors being female household heads and 60% of these had no other source of household income.

    proj3pic2Some markets have no drainage or floor and only two toilets for 15,000 stalls of all types. Here a customer sits next to an open channel of stagnant water and refuse.

    Monitoring of microbiological parameters from vending sites over an 18 month period, revealed that high rainfall in summer increases the risk of transmission of disease through contaminated water and generally poor sanitation. Meat stew represented the highest risk to health with 1.6% samples containing significant levels of Salmonella spp and 14.6% of samples being contaminated with Bacillus cereus. Water used by vendors often had quite high bacterial counts (103-107CFU/ml) but faecal contamination was only detected in 1.2% of samples analysed. Monitoring of vendors hands and preparation and serving utensils by swabs revealed very little evidence of faecal contamination (E.coli detected on 0.6% and 1.2% of hand and utensil swabs respectively). However, presumptive enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus were detected in 17.6% and 18.6% of hand and utensil swabs respectively.

    A training package for environmental health officers dealing with positive approaches to ensuring the safety of informally vended food was developed jointly by Zimbabwe and Zambia and used to train a total of 20 environmental health officers. The course placed heavy emphasis on getting health officials to move towards identification of problems and solutions at vending sites, and positive approaches to working with vendors.

    proj3pic3In Zambia, new partnerships were developed between those involved in vending and the supporting institutions. Data collected by the project enabled the Minister of Health to take the decision to temporarily close the cooked food section of Soweto market early in the wet season of 2004, and to implement project recommendations that reduced the impact of the annual cholera outbreak and allowed the market to re-open. In Lusaka and Harare a total of 102 informal food vendors received training on food safety. Vendors became highly motivated and have taken steps not only to improve their own operations but also to pass on information to other vendors Clean well kept stall at Luburma market; all food items are kept covered and surfaces are clean.

    Coalition partnership in UK, Zambia and Zimbabwe:

    United Kingdom

    Natural Resources Institute, The University of Greenwich at Medway, (Dr Andrew Graffham)

    Zambia:

    National Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research (Dr Rodah M. Zulu This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Central Board of Health; (Mr F. Nyirenda, Environmental Health Specialist - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Food and Drugs Control Laboratory, Ministry of Health , PO Box: 310138, Lusaka, Zambia. (Mrs Margaret Mazhamo, Head, FDCL)

    Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry; (Mr Boniface Kunda, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Provincial Health Office , Lusaka Province /Lusaka City Council, PO Box 37136, Ministry of Health, Lusaka (Mrs Christabel Malijani)

    World Health Organization, Lusaka, (Mr M. Musambo, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Zimbabwe:

    City Health Department, Harare (Mr Dombo Chibanda - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Government Analyst Laboratory, Harare, Zimbabwe (Mrs Pauline Zhindi)

    Institute of Food and Nutritional Studies, University of Zimbabwe (Dr Tony Mutukumira - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & Dr T. Henry Gadaga - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Kutsaga Research Station (KRS), Harare (Mr Oswell-Mharapara, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    SADC Food Security and Rural Development Hub (SADC), Harare (Ms M. Mupotola, SPS Specialist, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    World Health Organization (WHO), Harare (Dr E. K. Njelesanie This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

  • Project 4: India, Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe Open or Close

    Improving food safety of informally vended foods in Southern Africa (Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and Asia (India)

    Duration of project: 15th February 2005 to 15th January 2006

    This project is jointly managed by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich, UK, Food Research Institute, Ghana, National Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research (NISIR), Zambia, City Health Department (CHD), Zimbabwe and Jadavpur University, India. It is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) Crops Post Harvest Programme (CPHP).

    Project summary and outputs

    Previous CPHP funded projects have sought to improve livelihoods of street and informal food vendors and the health of consumers through the coalition approach. This project will bring together coalitions in Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and introduce a new one in Kolkata, India. It will explore ways of strengthening and improving the sustainability of the coalitions using the knowledge management concept so that information is utilised more effectively by the partnerships. Modules will be developed that document the food safety management approach developed by the coalitions to facilitate other towns and cities who wish to explore ways of improving the livelihoods of vendors and consumer health.

    The street food project activities in Ghana have been incorporated into a documentary filmed by Television for the Environment (TVE). This forms part of the 'Hands On Series', and will be shown on BBC World and BBC News24 in August. For more information see the informal project newsletter for March 2005.

    For more information about this project click here [PDF 489Kb]

    For more information about knowledge management approach in this project click here [PDF 44Kb]

    Vendors in Kolkata, India

    proj4pic3

    Vendor in Accra, Ghana

    proj4pic2

    Vendor in Lusaka, Zambiaproj4pic1 Vendors in Harare, Zimbabweproj4pic4

    Coalition partnerships in UK, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India:

    United Kingdom

    Natural Resources Institute, The University of Greenwich at Medway, (Mr Keith Tomlins – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Dr Andrew Graffham – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

    School of Health, The University of Greenwich at Medway, Dr Carlos Moreno - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Ghana

    Food Research Institute, Accra, Accra, Ghana (Dr. P-N. T Johnson - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Food & Drugs Board of Ghana, Accra (Mr K. van Ess - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    University of Ghana, Legon (Dr G. T-M. Kwadzo - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi (Dr J. A. M. Awudza, Department of Chemistry - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Dr W.O. Ellis, Department of Biochemistry - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Accra (Mr Aryeetey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Ghana Traditional Caterers Association, Box 110, Burden Powell Hall, Accra (Mr E. K. Apraku, Chairman)

    Consumer Association of Ghana, Box TF 81, Trade Fair Centre, Accra (Dr F. D. Tay)

    Zambia

    National Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research, Lusaka (Dr Rodah M. Zulu This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Lusaka City Council, PO Box 30789, Lusaka (Mr Misheck Zyuulu - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Central Board of Health, Lusaka (Mr Fordson. Nyirenda - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Food and Drugs Control Laboratory, Ministry of Health , Lusaka (Mrs Margaret Mazhamo - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry; (Mr Boniface Kunda, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Ministry of Health, Po Box 30205, Lusaka (Mrs Christabel Malijani - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Zimbabwe

    City Health Department, Harare (Mr Dombo Chibanda - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Government Analyst Laboratory, Harare, Zimbabwe (Mrs Pauline Zhindi - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Institute of Food and Nutritional Studies, University of Zimbabwe (Dr T. Henry Gadaga This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    Kutsaga Research Station (KRS), Harare (Mr Oswell-Mharapara and Cabinet Masuna - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

    India

    Jadavpur University, 188, Raja S.C. Mallik Road, Kolkata: 700 032, West Bengal, India (Professor Joyashree Roy - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Website Monitoring