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  • Small-Scale Farmers, Processors Benefit from New Food Safety Training Initiative in Zambia

    There has been increased knowledge and appreciation of food safety among Small and Medium Enterprises in Zambia following the development of food safety modules by the Government, University of Zambia (UNZA) and the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZBS).

    This is positioning the SMEs to enter high-value market through improved product quality and safety, and compliance with international standards. In addition, these training modules are now part of the professional curriculum at the University of Zambia, thus ensuring sustainability of the intervention

    The programme has covered 32 training modules in food safety and quality management based on international standards and best practices were designed and implemented; 65 fish farmers;  71 dairy farmers and processors; 28 rice farmers; 25 pineapple farmers; 10 employees of Zambezi Pineapple factory; 10 board members and employees of Choma Dairy Co-operative.  Two good agro-practices assessments and mentorship for certification were conducted.

    These training modules covering prerequisite programmes (PrPs) for food safety such as good agricultural practices, good hygiene practices and good manufacturing practices and food safety management systems (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)) are practical in orientation.  They are aimed at improving the standard of hygiene in food operations and ultimately the safety and quality of food traded on the Zambian market. These training modules have since been institutionalised at UNZA and the country is now ready to provide continuous professional training to personnel in the food sector.

    The SADC TRF, which is a technical and financial mechanism funded by the EU, provided up to €150,000 for UNZA and ZABS to undertake interventions in the key identified sectors which resulted in the development of the 32 modules. Key SME players in the sectors were engaged to inform the design of the training programme. Module development workshops were organised and subsequently training workshops for SMEs conducted.  The developed modules provide additional resource for UNZA to use for its ensuing masters and targeted professional educational development programmes on food safety. To ensure a wider coverage, the modules will be offered through the Module E-learning platform.

    The EU-funded SADC TRF enabled mobilisation and mutual collaboration of food safety experts from Government, academia and the private sector to design training modules and conduct training. Further, commitment of Government and implementation partners, especially in releasing their staff for this assignment, enabled smooth implementation of this intervention. Mutual collaboration of the food safety experts enabled development of modules at reduced cost.

    The TRF project implementation unit at the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) has been very efficient and effective in logistics planning and timely disbursements of funds.

    A total of 205 farmers and agro-processors have been trained in prerequisite programmes for food safety in seven sites namely Mongu, Ikelengi, Rufunsa, Choma, Siavonga, Luanshya and Kabwe districts of Zambia. The PrPs were delivered to the targeted beneficiaries selected from four sectors namely Dairy, Rice, Aquaculture and Pineapple. Through this intervention, the SMEs are now confidently positioning themselves to access high-value markets.

    The challenge

    A number of needs assessment in both PrPs and Food Safety Management Systems in Zambia have identified, among other factors, lack of knowledge and skills in food hygiene and quality management as major constraints to production of safe food. As such, SMEs in Zambia have been facing many challenges in meeting market requirements for food quality and safety. This has then resulted in their products not being competitive in regional markets, despite preferential market access gained from regional economic integration initiatives. Previous training interventions have been done by interested stakeholders, including external donors, but have not been based on documented training materials which have erudite input from renowned academicians and practitioners operating in the food safety management jurisdiction.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

    This challenge prompted the need to design and implement capacity building training in prerequisites programmes and food safety management through a collaborative effort between the private sector, academia and government. This collaborative effort resulted in having about 32 modules being developed based on both old and contemporary quality and standards needs of industry.

    Significance to the SADC regional economic integration agenda

    The PrPs trainings have enabled small and medium-scale farmers and agro-food processors to identify food safety hazards and critical control points in their processes in order to effectively implement food safety management systems. They have further been mentored for product certification through HACCP awareness and gap assessments. Certification will enable the targeted beneficiaries become more competitive and enter regional and international markets.

    This deliberate intervention by Government in the food industry has enabled SMEs with inadequate financial capital to access valuable food safety training. Moreover, the institutionalisation of the training modules at the University of Zambia will give an opportunity to SADC citizens to access these trainings. Specifically, this intervention enables Zambia to effectively implement some provisions of the SADC Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) Annex as well as commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) SPS Agreement.

    Key lessons learned

    Key lessons learned, include:

    • Participatory needs assessments and module development with the beneficiaries enabled identification of critical sector-specific training needs and general appreciation of the subsequent training programmes.
    • Mutual collaboration and commitment of the experts from the Government, academia, and the private sector enabled development of modules at reduced cost.
    • Deliberate government intervention in the food industry enables SMEs with inadequate financial capital to access valuable food safety training.
    • Effective communication with the Project team, including timely release of funds, flexibility in budget adjustments.

    A major obstacle encountered included language barrier with some of the participants. In future, it would be ideal to translate the training materials into local languages since a number of beneficiaries, especially at the primary production, are not well vested in the English language.

    An essential element in implementing national food safety systems is having skilled manpower at all levels of the food value chain. For the SMEs, most of whom are involved in primary production (the first phase of the value chain), this requires appropriate and adequate knowledge and skills in implementing PrPs, which include Codes of Good Agriculture Practice, Codes of Good Animal Husbandry Practice, Codes of Good Manufacturing Practice, Codes of Good Transport and Storage Practice, etc. The training modules in PrPs and HACCP achieved under this TRF project will contribute to improved livelihoods and economic development through production of safe and quality food, thereby maintaining consumer confidence in the food system at domestic level and further promoting regional and international trade in food.

    Contact information:

    Name:  TRF Zambia Project                                                                                 

    Title:                                                                                                  

    Organization:   Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry

    Phone:   +260962809427

    E-mail:    Simon.Ng’ona@mcti.org.gov or ngonasimon@gmail.com