Street food comes clean

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Safer street and informally vended food: Partnership approach for management and control of the informal food/street food sector in Africa and Asia that improves vendor livelihoods and the health of urban consumers
Validated RNRRS Output. Home List by Audience List by Topic

Street vendors and consumers are benefiting from an innovative system for the systematic management and control of informal food vending. The system is designed to ensure food safety and quality through the involvement and participation of all key players. To make the approach practical and easy to implement, it was divided into a series of logical modules. Over 5000 vendors have also received training in improved food safety, hygiene and financial management. Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India have systematically addressed specific issues affecting the informal sector. The new approaches have helped them to change the attitudes of food inspectors, from enforcement to providing sustainable support for vendor activities. The system is highly applicable to cities and towns across the globe.

Project Ref: CPH38:
Topic: 5. Rural Development Boosters: Improved Marketing, Processing & Storage
Lead Organisation: Natural Resources Institute (NRI), UK 
Source: Crop Post Harvest Programme


Current Situation
Environmental Impact


Research Programmes:

Crop Post Harvest Programme  and UNIDO

Relevant Research Projects:

R7493, R8270, R8272, R8433

  • Mr Keith Tomlins and Dr Andrew Graffham, Natural Resources Institute, Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent, ME4 4TB, Tel: + 44 1634 88 3460, Fax: + 44 1634 88 3567, Email:,
  • Dr Paa-Nii Johnson, Food Research Institute, P.O. Box M20, Accra, Ghana,  Tel: + 233 21 500331 / 777 330, Fax: 00233 21 777647 / 50 2884, &
  • Dr Rodah M. Zulu,  National Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research (NISIR), International Airport Road, PO Box 310158, Chelston, 15302, Lusaka, Zambia, Tel: 00 260 1 28, 24 88, Fax: 00 260 1 28 10 84, e-mail:
  • Mr Dombo Chibanda, City Health Department (CHD), PO Box BE201, Belvedere, Harare, Zimbabwe, Tel: 00 263 4 774141-3 & 753330-2, Mob: 00 26311806519, e-mail:
  • Professor Joyashree Roy, Jadavpur University, 188, Raja S.C. Mallik Road, Kolkata: 700 032, West Bengal, India, Tel: 91-33-24146666, email

Research Outputs, Problems and Solutions:

The urban population in the DFID PSA Countries in Africa and Asia is estimated to be 654 million.  In the majority of these target countries, informal food vending activities occur to differing extents, employing up to 20% of the working population (mainly female), generating revenue of $100 million in a typical city and providing low cost nutrition to urban populations.  However, these food security opportunities are threatened because of:

  • food safety concerns that pose risks to health, in particular the youngelderly and those with HIV/AIDS;
  • demands on a fragile urban infrastructure;
  • lack of recognition by authorities and policy makers who often clear vendors from the streets. 

To address the above issues, the project developed a multi-stakeholder innovative platform that was comprised of large regional partnerships using a knowledge management approach.  Partners included policy makers, municipal authorities, standards organisations, consumer and vendor associations and researchers in Africa and Asia. 

These partnerships developed an innovative ‘modular system’ for the systematic management and control of informal food vending that was brought about by bringing together knowledge and experiences from partners in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India.  Cities and towns elsewhere can adopt similar approaches. 

This approach has achieved the following benefits to vendors, consumers and its partners:

  • Successfully transferred the innovative platform based on the modular system from Africa to Kolkata, India with support from coalition partners in Africa and the UK;
  • Innovative approaches that changed the attitudes of Food Inspectors towards vendors from enforcement to supportive so that vendors obtained sustainable support;
  • Trained over 5,000 vendors based upon training approaches developed by the project and an innovative training of the trainer programmes.  These were based on the results of food safety surveys (over 400 samples) and comprehensive socio-economic studies;
  • Formed partnerships and linkages between vendor’s organisations from different regions so that they could share experiences; 
  • Vendors reported increased turnover of between 10% and 15% and employed more staff;
  • Consumer surveys (over 800 consumers) indicated that consumers did not always associated poor hygiene will ill health.
  • Developed promotion programmes through innovative radio programmes (Eating out safely), billboards and TV that potentially reached up to 350 million people globally (BBC) and 1 million nationally in Zambia (Eating out Safely);

Types of Research Output:

Product Technology Service Process or Methodology Policy Other
X X X X System

Major Commodities Involved:

Informally vended or street foods are foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors in streets and other public places for immediate consumption or consumption at a later time without further processing or preparation. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables which are sold outside authorized market areas for immediate consumption.  Therefore street foods can comprise a wide spectrum of food and drink commodities.

In addition, the model could be used with other informal groups in rural and urban sectors working with other commodities such as tailors, hairdressers and carpenters.

Production Systems:

Semi-Arid High potential Hillsides Forest-Agriculture Peri-urban Land water Tropical moist forest Cross-cutting

Farming Systems: 

Smallholder rainfed humid Irrigated Wetland rice based Smallholder rainfed highland Smallholder rainfed dry/cold Dualistic Coastal artisanal fishing

The boxes above have been left blank because foods vended in the informal food sector are the end/final product and have linkages with input chains of all the above.

Potential for Added Value:

Elements of RNRRS outputs that could potentially add value include the following:

         Food safety in peri-urban horticultural Products – R7530;

         Participatory Market Chain Analysis (PMCA) – R8182 R8418;

         Knowledge management – R8402;

         Rice Parboiling – R8263, R7543, R6331, R6688, R6507;

         Aflatoxin control – R7809, R5898, R6091, R6125, R6127;

         Farmer access to markets – R8275, R8274, R8498;

         Market information tools – R7151, R8250, R7494, R8422;

         Decision tools for institutional change in public and private sectors -R7502, R6306;

         Management systems for export horticulture – R8271, R8431;

         Indigenous vegetables – R6964, R7487;

         Cyanogen removal from cassava – R6332, R6339;

         Instant Fufu – R7495 – this project has common elements with R6332 and R6339.  .

         Radio. The project can be clustered with other CPHP projects with outputs which have the potential to be promoted through radio to promote behavioural and attitudinal changes. 

         Market Information Tools – R8250 – Combining Radio (Together to Market) and Training to Facilitate Successful Farmer Group Marketing.


How the outputs were validated:

Outputs were validated by the following methods and by the following groups (note coalition partners refers to end users [vendor and consumer organisations] and supporting institutions [urban authorities, standards institutions, research institutions, media and environmental organisations]):a) Quarterly project coalition meetings – coalition partners and major stakeholders assessed and reviewed project outputs.  End users were mainly extremely vulnerable urban poor females in Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and extremely vulnerable urban poor males in Kolkata.

b) Workshops – coalition partners, other policy makers and NGO’s more widely involved in the informal food sector reviewed outputs and assessed wider issues affecting the sector.

c) Training – target groups (informal food vendors) attended workshops given by researchers and Environmental Health Officers to learn about improved food hygiene and training of the trainers initiatives.

d) International project meetings – Coalition partners from UK, Africa and Asia and wider audiences validated outputs at international meetings in Ghana and Zambia.  They assessed common international aspects in the project countries. 

e) Transfer of the coalition partnership approach to a new urban city;

The approach was validated when the platform was transferred to India where in one year a successful coalition was established.

f) Involvement of new urban authorities;

New urban authorities showed interest in the coalition approach for managing food safety in the informal food sector.

g) Partnership Building Efforts:

In Kolkata Managing partners kept up a dialogue on a day to basis with different stakeholder groups and almost validated each and every step of knowledge management through cross check and balance.

h) Knowledge Attitude Practice (KAP) studies of vendors and consumers.

KAP studies were conducted in Lusaka, Accra and Kolkata.  The target groups were informal food vendors (extremely vulnerable urban poor) and urban consumers (mixed poverty grouping).  The studies evaluated uptake of new knowledge and changes in their livelihoods.

g) Radio series in Zambia.  A radio series ‘Eating out Safely’ found that consumers and vendors liked the programmes and it was instrumental in making them change their practices.  A phone in response during the series indicated public debate about issues of food safety in informally vended foods.

Where the Outputs were Validated:            

The outputs have been validated in four countries (Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India) between 1999 and 2005.  This is because continuous validation of the outputs was an integral component of the project through involvement of all relevant stakeholders as partners.

The social groups targeted included the ‘extremely vulnerable poor’ which was comprised of a number of different sub-groups depending on the city or town.  The majority are classed as ‘poor people living in urban areas’.  In addition, the majority of vendors in Accra, Lusaka and Harare are classed as ‘women headed households’ while those in Kolkata are mainly male vendors. The production systems include those that are cross cutting with an emphasis on peri-urban.  Similarly, because informally vended foods are diverse they cover a range of farming systems.

Considering when the outputs were validated, this occurred during the following:

a) Successfully transferred the coalition partnership from Africa to Kolkata in India so that issues affecting the livelihoods of informal food vendors and the health of consumers could be systematically addressed.

b) Quarterly project coalition meetings in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India between 1999 and 2005;

c) Inception and final project workshops in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India between 1999 and 2005;

d) International project meetings in Accra (June 2005) and Lusaka (November 2005).

e) Knowledge Attitude Practice (KAP) studies in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India.

f) Radio Series (Eating Out Safely) – these programmes were aired in Zambia and were targeted at the extremely vulnerable poor in urban areas and also more affluent segments of the urban centres

Current Situation

Who are the Users?

The project has sought to develop a systematic approach for the management and control of food safety and quality issues in the informal food sector through the involvement and participation of all key players in the sector.  To make this approach practical and easy to implement, it was divided into a series of logical ‘modules’ each of which enabled the partnerships of key players to systematically address an issue affecting the sector.  This approach was formalised in 2005 at two levels.  Examples of the modules include those that apply to ‘Developing partnerships’, ‘Training of Environmental Health Officer’s’, ‘Training of vendors’, ‘Policy framework’, ‘Consumer awareness’, ‘Social and cultural context of vending’, ‘Infrastructure and utilities’, ‘Food safety and food hygiene’, ‘Legal framework’, ‘inspection’ and ‘Monitoring & evaluation’.

At the national level, partnerships in Lusaka, Harare and Accra developed a series of modules that applied to the local/national situation systems while the newest partnership in Kolkata explored the issues of how to extend the partnership to new cities where vendor livelihoods and consumer health were threatened.  They are currently being used by local authorities, NGO (vendor association), researchers and food standards boards.

At the international level, experiences in each country have been brought together to develop a series of generalised ‘modules’ that have a wider international application that can be applied more widely.  They are currently being used by municipal authorities, NGO (vendor association), researchers and food standards boards.  International organisations such as FAO, WHO and UNIDO are disseminating.

Where the outputs have been used:

The outputs are currently being used in major cities in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India.

India – In Kolkata, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has taken on the management of partnership on street vended foods from Jadavpur University who initiated the project there. Jadavpur University are still actively involved and other stakeholders are also getting formally involved in policy consultation.   Active role of Jadavpur and Hawker Sangram Committee in development of the National policy on street food vending

Zambia – Environmental Health Officers (EHO’s) are working with informal food vendors in selected markets in Lusaka and are also promoting the approach to improving food safety nationally.   In particular, the project facilitated improvements in sanitation and refuse disposal that directly led to reductions in outbreaks of the infectious disease cholera.  Informal food vendors are collaborating with vendors in India.

Ghana – EHO’s are working closely with the informal food vendors in selected markets in Accra and are also promoting the approach to improving food safety nationally.   Informal food vendor associations are promoting better street food in collaboration with the Ghana Tourist Board.

Zimbabwe – The coalition is still actively supporting vendors in designated markets in Harare.  However, high inflation (1,200%) in Zimbabwe has meant many more illegal vendors are now trading outside the designated markets but do not receive support. 

Uganda – A radio series ‘Eating out safely’ made by the project is being broadcast

The wider international approach is currently being actively promoted through a project website, Radio series, newsletters (WHO), conferences, (FAO) and seminars.

Scale of Current Use:

The coalition partners in Accra, Lusaka, Harare and Kolkata can potentially reach up to 340,000 vendors and 16.5 million consumers but the actual scale of use is difficult to estimate.  Considering the application of components of the national modules developed, over 5,000 vendors have been trained in improved food safety and hygiene practice in Accra, Lusaka and Harare.  A smaller group of vendors were trained in financial management.  In Lusaka, markets are supporting vendors by improving stalls.  The number of vendors trained increases when vendor to vendor training with supports from vendor associations and local authorities is included.  In Zambia and Zimbabwe the training initiatives are being extended nationally.

In India, project partners are contributing to the National Policy on Street Vending which has the potential to influence livelihoods of several hundred million people.

The project partnerships have EHO’s in how to support vendors and understand vendor issues.  Training materials developed by the partnerships are continuing to support this process.

The establishment of vendor organisation in Zambia with links to an Indian vendor organisation may potentially affect up to 16,000 vendors in Lusaka.

A radio series ‘Eating out safety’ developed by the project is being transmitted elsewhere in Africa.

Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:

Modules have been jointly produced by the coalitions of over 20 organisations in Ghana, India, Zimbabwe and Zambia that provide a systematic approach for improving the livelihoods of vendors and health of consumers through improved food safety.  This was done through partners that included policy (local authorities and food standards), institutional structures (research and academia) and beneficiaries (vendor NGO’s).

The modules address a wide range of issues that assist with the promotion and or adoption of the outputs.  These include:

  • Developing partnerships,
  • Training of Environmental Health Officer’s,
  • Training of vendors,
  • Policy framework,
  • Consumer awareness & advocacy,
  • Social and cultural context of vending,
  • Infrastructure and utilities,
  • Food safety and food hygiene,
  • Legal framework and inspection and
  • Monitoring & evaluation.

In Kolkata in particular, the timing of the project activities has achieve maximum value addition compared to all other past initiative to support the informal food sector. The project timing coincided with several ongoing national and local level policy initiatives (which has life time of at least current and next five year plans i.e. 2012.) such as the Urban Renewal Mission, National Policy on Informal Vending, Urban Poverty Alleviation Programme and Mega City Projects initiatives.

Specific promotion strategies adopted include dissemination via the coalition partnership approach and through the media which includes international media (BBC World Service [Health Matters], BBC World TV [Fufu for thought on Hands on Africa Report]), national and local radio, local and national newspapers in the participating countries and finally through international organisations (WHO Newsletter).

In relation to the potential use of radio to promote behavioural and attitudinal change, as through the series ‘Eating out Safely’ made as part of the project, it is important that staff of more radio stations have training, preferably on-the-job training such as was provided by a BBC producer as part of the making of this series.

The key factors of success were the development of partnerships, using a systematic approach and involving the end-users (vendor NGO’s) along with key supporting institutions (local authorities, food standards, research, environmental).

Environmental Impact

Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:

Improving the management and control of the informal food sector will lead to direct environment benefits through improved provision of potable water supplies, sanitation and refuse disposal.  This was achieved by increasing awareness of the informal vendors of the importance of improved sanitation and refuse disposal.  Improved training of the Environmental Health Inspectors has facilitated improved communication between vendors and the inspectors in improving the environment.  An example is the reduction in the outbreaks of the disease cholera by improving sanitation and refuse disposal at a vendor market in Lusaka, Zambia.

Indirect environmental benefits include reduced demands on the environment through improved consumer health leading to improved efficiency at work and reduced demand for medical and hospital facilities.

Adverse Environmental Impacts:

As informal food vending increases, careful management by the partnerships are necessary to ensure there is an adequate supply of potable water and that suitable sanitation and refuse disposal facilities are provided.  In addition, vendors will require support through access to new technologies so that charcoal and oil burning stoves and oil burning lights do not contribute to urban pollution. 

Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:

Climate change issues were not a component of the project objectives or research design.  However, if global warming occurs this is anticipated to put strains on food safety and management systems in tropical climates.  Increased ambient temperatures may increase the migration of rural poor to urban centres leading to more rapid expansion of urban centres and subsequent strains on the infrastructure.  This may also increase the demand for informally vended foods in the provision of livelihoods and low cost food for urban consumers.  Higher ambient temperatures will facilitate the survival and growth of food poisoning micro-organisms making good hygiene practice even more essential.  Water shortages will put more pressure on the provision of potable water supplies and sanitation facilities used by vendors and their customers.  Improved refuse disposal will be necessary to prevent food poisoning and other disease outbreaks.

Relevant Research Projects, with links to the
Research for Development (R4D) web site
and Technical Reports:

R4D Project Title Technical Report
R5898 A second generation biosensor for the detection of mycotoxins
R6091 Yeast bioassay for the detection of mycotoxins.
Report Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
R6125 The development of sampling plans for the determination of aflatoxins in feeds
R6127 Rapid methods for the analysis of mycotoxins
R6306 Field trials for quality assurance for horticultural exports.
R6331 Improving the efficiency of low-cost, small-scale rice processing in S. Asia and W. Africa
R6339 Bangladesh: Production of Legume Fodders by Mixed Cropping with Rice and their Supplementation with Straw Based Ration for Cattle in Rural Areas of Bangladesh.
R6507 The extension of storage life and improvement of quality in fresh sweet potato through selection of appropriate cultivars and handling conditions.
R6688 Ghana: Improving the Competiveness and Marketability of locally produced rice in Ghana vis-a-vis imports of the commodity into the country.  18 MB
R6964 Opportunities and constraints in the subsistence production and marketing of indigenous vegetables in East and Central Africa.
  • Notes on Huckleberry, Solanum scabrum, and related Black Nightshade species
  • Indigenous vegetables becoming increasingly popular in Central Africa
R7151 Overcoming information constraints: improving horticultural marketing and technical information flows to smallholders
R7487 Improving the livelihoods of peri-urban vegetable growers through market promotion of fresh and processed indigenous vegetables
R7493 Enhancing the food security of the peri-urban and urban poor through improvements to the quality, safety and economics of street-vended foods.
R7494 Optimisation of horticulture research and uptake in India through the development of technical and management systems with public and private sector partners
R7495 Identification of an approach to the commercialisation of cassava fufu processing in West Africa that maximises benefits to sustainable rural livelihoods
R7502 Optimising institutional arrangements for demand-driven post-harvest research, delivery, uptake and impact on the livelihoods of the poor, through public and private sector partnerships
  • Post-harvest innovations in innovation: reflections on partnership and learning.
R7530 Enhancing food chain integrity: quality assurance mechanisms for air pollution impacts on fruit and vegetable systems
R7543 Improving the efficiency of rural parboiling operations to produce rice of consistently high quality
R7809 Strategies for reducing aflatoxin levels in groundnut-based foods and feeds in India: a step towards improving health of humans and livestock
R8182 Strengthening technical innovation systems in potato-based agriculture in Bolivia: Bolivia Initiative
R8250 Decentralised market information service in Lira District, Uganda
R8263 Enhancing rural livelihoods through a new coalition arrangement for the dissemination of improved rice post-production and marketing technologies in Northern Ghana.
Main Report.
Training Manual part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  • Rice Recipie Album
  • Training Manual:
a) What is Good Quality Rice
b) The Role of Farmers
c) The Role of Parboilers
d) The Role of Millers
e) The Role of Marketing
R8270 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
R8271 Promoting improved food safety management for small-scale farmers and their commercial exporters who are involved in horticultural exports
R8272 Improving food safety of informally vended foods in Southern Africa
R8274 Improvement of maize marketing through adoption of improved post-harvest technologies and farmer group storage: a case study of Kiboga and Apac districts
R8275 Farmer Organisations for market access
R8402 STEP tools to package and deliver information for local use
R8418 Promotion and development of the participatory market chain approach (PMCA) in Uganda
R8422 Improving farmer and other stakeholders’ access to quality information and products for pre- and post- harvest maize systems management in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
R8431 Management and control – essential features for continued access by small-scale growers to EU fresh produce markets
R8433 Maximising impact of food safety knowledge of street vended and informally vended foods generated by CPHP projects in West and Southern Africa using the coalition approach and extending the approach to India
R8498 Analysis of promotion and uptake pathways for CPH research