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Projects and events focused on food security in Africa

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A number of projects have recently been initiated to improve food security in Africa.

The groups involved are the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Finance Corporation.

FAO has started to assess and improve the food control system in Seychelles. A team of FAO food safety experts will work with local food safety authorities and other stakeholders to assess the effectiveness of the national control system, which covers the supply chain, including production, distribution , retail and consumers.

The project is part of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Policy Framework (SPS) for Africa developed by the African Union to stimulate trade between member states. The final product will be a set of recommendations and an implementation framework.

The two-year, €5 million ($5.3 million) project is funded by the European Union and aims to boost food safety and phytosanitary control in 12 African countries in the Common Market for East Africa region and Southern (COMESA).

Commercial project and workshop.
Another project, funded by the African Development Bank and implemented by FAO, aims to improve food safety standards in small and medium processors in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal so that they can better participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area. (AfCFTA) .

The three-year, €1 million ($1.1 million) project targets women- and youth-owned businesses to improve their competitiveness in cross-border and regional trade. It will involve training and help to remove unnecessary trade barriers by promoting harmonization.

Blaise Ouattara, Food Safety and Quality Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Africa and lead technical officer for the project, said: “It will not only have results at the individual level in improving the livelihoods of the participants, but that will help drive important changes in the way food is handled and marketed in the region.”

A separate workshop in August brought together experts to discuss safe food trade in East Africa.

Organized by the FAO sub-regional office for Eastern Africa and the Northern Corridor Transport and Transit Coordination Authority, the event strengthened the capacity of countries to comply with food safety and animal and plant health regulations.

Attendees heard how the cost of meeting some standards can be high, but the price of non-compliance is often higher, as unsafe food further limits access to markets.

The recommendations for producers were awareness campaigns and training aimed at farmers on inputs, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), systems, regulations and procedures for quality management and food safety. Supporting the private sector to meet security standards, improving security and transportation infrastructure in rural areas, and improving clearance processes at the border were also mentioned.

Another advance is the Senegalese Ministry of Health leading the Healthy Food Market project with the support of the WHO.

Research in 69 national markets revealed deficiencies ranging from the lack of zoning of stalls, leading to product mix-up and cross-contamination risks; the insufficient or non-existent maintenance of the bathrooms, which lack running water; for the sale of food in open stalls or on the ground. He discovered the absence of water points, the lack of regular waste disposal services and the shortage of cold storage equipment.

A pilot phase in the Grand Dakar market consists of improving facilities and equipment and promoting compliance with basic food hygiene standards to prevent foodborne diseases. The plan is to extend the interventions to markets throughout the country.

“From now on it is required to wear an apron, obtain a medical certificate and each vendor must have a garbage can. We have worked on the disinfection of places where poultry is sold, the installation of hand washing devices inside the market and the awareness of users”, said Mame Diarra Faye Leye, focal point of the International Network of Food Safety Authorities ( INFOSAN).

IFC and IAEA efforts
IFC partnered with the Angolan Agricultural Association (AAPA) to expand food safety, certification, and training in the country.

Training in production standards and certification will be provided to more than 100 members of AAPA, an industry association of large agribusiness companies and rural cooperatives. It will help Angolan producers to increase productivity and meet export standards.

IFC has also signed partnerships with the Turiago farm, the second largest banana farm in Angola, and Fazenda Maxi, a large fruit and vegetable retailer.

Earlier this year, the IAEA, FAO and the South African National Metrology Institute held a five-day African workshop on food safety.

Almost 300 experts and researchers from 43 countries shared experiences on topics such as the prevention of food fraud, the use of radioreceptor assays and stable isotope techniques for residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides, as well as mycotoxins, toxic metals and biotoxins. Discussions also covered the response to foodborne illness and outbreaks, the establishment of maximum residue limits, and the implementation of effective food monitoring and surveillance programs.

Participants agreed that there was a need to increase food safety awareness among the local public and discussed ways to collect scientifically reliable data on food hazard levels.

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