Mbeya city is rapidly expanding, with a population growing from 385,279 to over 620,000 inhabitants (National Census, 2022) in a decade (annual growth rate of 4,9%), its existing urban infrastructure is struggling to keep up. This makes it increasingly difficult for citizens to access safe and nutritious food.
Poor food safety practices in local markets also pose a significant health risk, with high levels of biological and chemical contamination in fruits and vegetables on sale. On top of all that, limited logistical frameworks and poor traceability contribute to high post-harvest losses and minimal shelf life of perishable goods.
The situation is further complicated by political dynamics and a lack of food governance, with food responsibilities shared by many different city departments, making it challenging to coordinate policies and interventions. Vulnerable groups such as women, young people, and minorities are excluded from decision-making processes, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, poverty, and exclusion.
"People are consuming a lot of agrochemicals without knowing it! Pest infestations are growing under the changing climate conditions and spraying more does not result in safe and abundant harvests. Creating awareness of safe food practices includes knowing how to use chemicals properly. With the Participatory Food Safety System, we launched under the name Chakula Bora, I believe we can build knowledge on safe practices for all food system actors. It starts with farmers, but it has to go all the way up the markets and consumers." Zephania Semkogo - Agronomist in Mbeya City for MIICO
We facilitate spaces for dialogue where the vision and interests of all food system stakeholders are shared and understood. That's why we are partnering with the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) to facilitate the Mbeya Food Smart City Platform (Jukwaaya Usalama wa Chakula Mbeya in Swahili). The development of the platform has been made possible through AGRI-CONNECT. This is a flagship programme funded by the European Union.
The Mbeya Food Smart City Platform brings together government agencies, the private sector, civil society and educational institutions to work towards key objectives. These include improving food safety, promoting decent livelihoods for food system actors (especially vulnerable groups), increasing food accessibility and raising awareness about nutritious diets.
As facilitators of the platform, we focus on several strategies to contribute to these objectives:
We support farmers to improve the safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables supplied to Mbeya and its environment. For instance, we've established 398 climate-smart agricultural demonstration plots across 5 regions, including Mbeya, reaching over 15,000 farmers and increasing high-quality produce for local consumers. Techniques like greenhouses and solar-powered irrigation help improve productivity and livelihoods. On average, two early adopters per plot have already implemented new techniques on their own farms.
We have also set up the Mbeya Participatory Food Safety System (PFSS), a participatory certification system in which farmers and vendors jointly monitor food safety. Since the system was launched, 104 farmers and 126 vendors in Mbeya City have been working together to improve their food safety and hygiene practices. The pilot was designed together with the PFSS pilot in Arusha and is supported by multi-stakeholder platforms in both cities, sharing experiences with one another.
In 2021, we launched a campaign to raise awareness of food safety risks and healthy nutrition in Mbeya City. We distributed food safety T-shirts, provided public markets with PA systems to broadcast hygiene messages, and aired 6 radio programmes that reached 4,500 people. We also sent bulk messages to 6,500 consumers' mobile phones. The radio campaign now repeats yearly, each time bringing more information on food safety to citizens. We have just finished our third season!
We facilitate the urban food governance process to promote inclusive local food chains, upscale interventions, and empower local voices in national discussions. In Mbeya we work closely with our partner TCCIA and Mbeya city to achieve this
We pilot business models that are fair and transparent between actors in the food chain, driven by a common goal, and lead to a stable market and a constant supply of quality food in Mbeya City. Thanks to ICRA coaching model through national and local coaches who are responsible in building the capacity and strengthening the relationship between the food actor.
For instance, we helped launch Produce Tanzania, a youth-led safe food hub in Mbeya City. The retail selling point for fresh fruit and vegetables opened on 25 March 2022, and sources from a network of 250+ farmers with high-quality growing standards from within the Mbeya region.
Working with TCCIA Mbeya and Mbeya City Council, we are improving market infrastructure in the Sokoine, Soweto and Igawilo markets. This has included the construction of 273 new food stalls with co-investment from vendors, the replacement of roofs and the installation of fruit and vegetable washing facilities with clean water.
We also worked with TCCIA and Mbeya City Council in partnership with the Small Industries Development Organisation - SIDO - to support street vendors by designing and operating mobile wheelbarrows used to sell fresh fruit and vegetables in the city.
"In the last two years I have worked with the vendors from Soweto market I have seen how their participation in the platform and various food safety activities have changed practices in the market area. They have started wearing working coats, cleaning the market environment but also communicating with various city departments about market services such as waste collection and enforcement of bylaws."