Making African Leafy Vegetables safe all the way

NICE helps Kenyan farmers improve food safety

June 7th is World Food Safety Day. Keeping food safe is a collective responsibility. The NICE Project shows what that can mean in local supply chains.

Women Sellers at Chwele Market

World Food Safety Day aims to raise awareness about the vital topic of food safety. The 2024 theme is “Prepare for the unexpected”. This underscores the potentially lifesaving need to be ready for food safety incidents of any size. It can be tempting to think of this just as a task for medical carers. But food safety incidents can result from negligence, accidents, fraud, or natural calamities. Many of them are avoidable if all stakeholders, from producers to consumers, uphold food safety standards. The best form of preparedness is prevention!

In Kenya, the NICE Project has been addressing food safety and traceability concerns among farmers. Farmers in Busia and Bungoma counties, where NICE operations are based, are particularly worried about food safety because of the recent severe flooding. As well as causing widespread loss of life and property, the flooding hit farmers hard in several ways. NICE’s Food Safety Training gives and gave farmers essential knowledge of best practices regarding all, production, resilience and food safety. One key aspect in the current situation is protecting vegetables from water damage. NICE supports farmers with appropriate storage and guides them on avoiding contamination. To stop waterborne diseases spreading, farmers now know that they must quickly remove any damaged vegetables.

NICE has already helped ten Farmers’ Hubs in Busia and Bungoma with capacity-building on food safety along whole value chains, particularly for African Leafy Vegetables. “Stakeholders benefit from a broad range of training”, explains local NICE Project manager Elizabeth Imbo.

Harvested vegetables being stored in a charcoal cooler in Bungoma

“We target appropriate information to urban vegetable vendors. We also work with motorbike delivery riders. Twelve motorbike riders have been trained on how to handle the food they transport safely. Furthermore, our trained Farmer’ Hubs have reached more than 900 smallholders with improved information on food safety during production, as well as on proper handling and traceability.”

A transporter taking vegetables from the farmer to the market

Policy also plays a big role in “preparing for the unexpected”. The NICE project has worked on a joint consultation process to develop a comprehensive food safety policy for Bungoma County. “We engaged here with numerous stakeholders”, Elizabeth Imbo adds. They include government agencies, industry representatives, public health experts, and community leaders.

 “Policy needs to reflect the collective expertise and perspectives of everybody involved.”  

  Elizabeth Imbo NICE Project Manager

The resulting food safety policy for Bungoma County is a broad package of measures. These aim to establish robust food safety standards, improve inspection and monitoring, promote public awareness, and help implement best practices throughout the food value chain.

“The collaborative effort underlines the NICE team’s commitment to fostering a culture of food safety and quality within urban environments. This contributes directly to the health and well-being of local residents.”

Global NICE project lead Helen Prytherch

Safeguarding food safety is a shared responsibility. The NICE Project is making its local contribution in Kenya, Rwanda and Bangladesh. Globally, however, there is always more to do. This World Food Safety Day reminds us of the collective need to take further concerted steps.