Feed the Future




Safe Food, Fair Food for Cambodia

Principal investigator and lead institution

Dr. Delia Grace, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Co-PI and Collaborator institutions

National Animal Health and Production Research Institute, Centre for Livestock and Agriculture Development (CelAgrid), Emory University


More than 2 billion people fall ill each year from food they eat. Foodborne disease (FBD) is not only a major public health problem but also a barrier to smallholder farmers who wish to sell in high value domestic and export markets. As FBD is predicted to worsen under climate change, tackling FBD matters for climate adaptation. Though women have an important role in livestock value chains, extensive research by ILRI and others has shown that women tend to drop out of more complex value chains that demand greater food safety assurances, missing opportunities from these profitable value chains. Hence, supporting informal markets to provide safer food can achieve multiple outcomes of improved health, nutrition, equity, livelihoods, and, resilience to climate change.

Like many Asian countries, Cambodia has a rich tradition of tasty and nutritious foods. Animal source foods (ASF) are an important part of the cuisine with pork, fish, and poultry products widely consumed. The great majority of livestock products are produced by smallholders, many of them women, and sold in traditional, wet markets, where women also predominate as retailers. Again, as common in Asia, recent years have seen growing concern over the issue of food safety. Welcome development is accompanied by urbanization, rapid increases in demand for livestock products and, as a consequence, rapid changes in supply chains, which become longer, more complex, and less transparent. Trust in food goes down, often with good reason as the food system develops in a way that provides little rewards for those with good practices, but high rewards for those who carry out bad and unsafe practices.

In Cambodia, there is much concern but little reliable evidence on the health burden of FBD; its multiple costs; the hazards, foods and value chains most responsible for the burden; or, the best means to manage and communicate food safety risk. In the absence of evidence, misperceptions dominate food discourse: opportunities are lost and scarce resources are spent managing minor problems, while the major issues go to the back of the queue.

In order to tackle this problem we propose two major research thrusts. The first is to generate evidence on the health and economic burden of FBD in ASF value chains important to the poor and women and the second is to pilot a market-based approach to improving food safety that builds on successfully implemented projects in Africa and India. Understanding the risk associated with different commodities and hazards is essential for rational risk management and combining health information with economic information can better motivate political engagement and investment. Developing approaches to improving food safety in informal markets will not only deliver benefits to those participating in the value chain, but also offer an approach that, if evaluated as successful, can be widely applied in Cambodia and elsewhere. Our central idea is market-based, light-touch interventions that are sustainable and scalable, changing practice through capacity building and incentives, and provision of an enabling policy environment. Conducting research within a risk analysis framework, we propose to build capacity among Cambodian research partners whose participation will be coordinated by the two Cambodian PI’s leading the National Veterinary Research Institute and CelAgrid, a lead Cambodian NGO respectively.

Food safety is often managed in a sectoral way and a key component of our research is to ensure better integration of food safety, nutrition, and equity objectives. We will investigate, for the first time in Cambodia, the links between nutrition and food safety in the context of ASF. The findings will help both nutrition and food safety communities better implement initiatives by leveraging synergies and minimizing trade-offs between attaining nutrition and health outcomes. Given the predominance of women in ASF retail, processing and household use, gender aspects must be fully integrated for the project to succeed. This includes developing gender disaggregated FBD health and economic burdens, ensuring the risk management project meets the different needs of women and men, and developing recommendations for risk management and communication that are gender sensitive and equitable.


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Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
Department of Animal Sciences
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