The Strengthening local food networks for food systems transformation project was launched in the early stages of the Covid-19 public health crisis and lockdown with an objective of reconnecting and recalibrating local food systems in eThekwini Municipality and iLembe District Municipality in KwaZulu Natal Province. Due to Covid-19 these local food systems had become disconnected impacting on the ability of farmers to produce and sell food to generate income, and on consumers having access to food. The project aims to ensure that effective and resilient local food systems are enabled. This is achieved through working in conjunction with the local municipalities and groups of small-scale farmers and stakeholder groups situated within pre-selected areas within eThekwini and iLembe.
A key workstream in this project focussed on the implementation of food safety standards amongst the small scale farming networks in eThekwini Municipality and iLembe District Municipality. During the course of the project the importance of ensuring that appropriate and adequate food safety standards are widely implemented amongst small scale farmer groups became clearer, and an approach towards the implementation of these standards was defined.
The importance of achieving acceptable food safety standards within small scale farmers
Recognising that all consumers have the right to safe food, we require adequate food safety standards to be in place amongst all farmers and handlers of food. Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Food can become contaminated at any point of production and distribution, yet the primary responsibility lies with food producers.
Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick.
Food safety standards are generally well enforced in the commercial food system as retailers insist on their suppliers having a certification standard in place. This standard (for example GLOBALG.A.P.), which is independently verified by a group of auditors, is as a collection of farming production principles and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food, while taking into account issues of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
All suppliers of food, must comply with relevant food safety regulations of South Africa. Satisfying these food safety requirements requires formidable resources of time and money, which many small scale producers don’t have. As a result, small scale farmers generally do not have any food safety accreditation. This lack of food safety accreditation is a barrier to being able to enter into retail and other formalised commercial markets as increasingly retailers and formal markets are insisting on their produce suppliers having recognised food safety certification.
During the Strengthening local food networks for food systems transformation project it was found that there were varying degrees of food safety knowledge amongst the farmers worked with, and big issues were found with disease management and the use of pesticides.
Over the last number of years, a great deal of effort has gone into defining standards that are achievable for small-scale farmers yet cover all the essential food safety risk elements. An example of such a standard is the Primary Farm Assurance (PFA) standard otherwise known as localg.a.p. This standard allows for progression from an entry level to further levels in a step-wise approach with GLOBALG.A.P, which is a requirement for export, being the ultimate standard that can be achieved.
An implementation plan for the rollout of food safety standards amongst small scale farmers
The project focuses on a food safety training approach and implementation of the PFA standard (localg.a.p) amongst:
Rolling out the food safety training and PFA standard to groups of farmers in the above areas will eliminate the main market access barrier for these farmers, and will result in an improvement in the safety of food produced.
This rollout of the food safety training and implementation of the PFA standard will be achieved through the finalisation and roll-out of a Localg.a.p Training Kit, a train-the-trainer programme, with emphasis on holistic plant management, hygiene, record keeping amongst other issues.
As a service provider in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and international education work, GIZ is dedicated to shaping a future worth living around the world. Together with commissioning parties and partners, GIZ generates and implements ideas for political, social and economic change. GIZ works flexibly to deliver effective and efficient solutions that offer people better prospects and sustainably improve their living conditions. For GIZ, the 2030 Agenda is the overarching framework that guides its work, which it implements in close cooperation with its partners and commissioning parties.
NSF International is a leading provider of independent certification services to the agriculture, produce and processing industries. In South Africa they are one of the leading Certification Bodies of GLOBALG.A.P and localg.a.p. They also offer training and coaching services through webinars, classroom and individual sessions, sharing their practical experiences. NSF will be involved in the evaluation of the localg.a.p training kit and with practical advice and evaluation of the training material. They will also provide localg.a.p and GLOBALG.A.P training for the trainees of the train-the-trainer program and the selected farm assurers. NSF will play a vital role in the role out of the audits on farms.
SPAR is an international group of independently owned and operated retailers and wholesalers who work together in partnership under the SPAR Brand to provide a high quality, value for money shopping experience for the communities that SPAR serves.
Click here for more on the Mopani Rural Hub and the SPAR food safety initiative.