Women's leadership workshop in Cambodia.

In Cambodia, a multinational research team has piloted a leadership and food safety workshop that empowers female farmers to collaborate and take collective action to strengthen food safety in their communities.

In August, two dozen female vegetable farmers and staff members from Banteay Srei, a local nonprofit focused on women’s self-empowerment, participated in trainings held in the Cambodian provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang. During the day-long workshops, women worked together to identify their personal strengths and conduct risk assessments of the vegetable value chain, learning how their leadership and collective action can improve food safety in their communities.

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Meeting on family farm in Nepal

An international, multidisciplinary research team has launched a new project to improve the safety of fresh produce in Nepal by harnessing market-based approaches that integrate consumer and producer studies.

With a policy focus that prioritized food security and government investments in related areas, Nepal has experienced relatively higher productivity of some agricultural crops and lower poverty rates. Yet, 36% of children under five years old are chronically malnourished, and food production is only one side of the equation, says Aditya Khanal, associate professor of agricultural economics at Tennessee State University (TSU) and principal investigator (PI) on the new study funded by FSIL.

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Dr. Madan Dey

While he now calls the state of Texas home, Madan Dey has roots in rural Bangladesh, where he grew up on the family farm. It was a small-scale operation that mainly produced rice, along with some fish and dairy. As a young boy, he witnessed firsthand his father, uncle and other relatives navigate the many challenges of running an agricultural business.

Today, as an agricultural economist, he performs experiments and analyses to better understand consumer behavior, which at first glance seems far removed from farming life. Yet, the heart of Dey’s work — to improve the livelihood of farmers around the world — can be traced back to his upbringing.

“I don’t like to do research for the sake of research. I like to do research that will help the stakeholder,” says Dey, professor of agricultural business and economics and chair of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas State University. “I know the real pain of farming, so I try to help farmers.”

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Vegetable market in Cambodia

Progress in food safety can stumble in the final mile: innovations to reduce the risk of foodborne illness are only effective if people are willing and able to adopt them. Social science tools can help fill this “implementation gap,” enabling researchers to understand the incentives and barriers to the adoption of new food safety practices. A recent course on research methods for gender-sensitive surveys, interviews and focus groups has equipped a cohort in Cambodia to help bridge the implementation gap in a vegetable food safety project funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety.

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Researcher and stakeholder engagement on Kenyan poultry farms

Poultry production systems worldwide are vulnerable to contamination with bacterial pathogens, such as non-typhoidal Salmonella, which is the leading cause of death from foodborne disease in Africa. Research grounded in locally led decision-making about priorities will be better positioned to generate sustainable, scalable food safety solutions. Leveraging this approach, a team of Kenya- and U.S.-based researchers held a risk ranking workshop in March, engaging female smallholder farmers in Kenya in prioritizing food safety interventions for rigorous evaluation.

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Food safety workshop in Senegal

In late May, more than 40 dairy producers and processors gathered in Senegal’s Matam region, some having traveled up to 75 miles or with a child in tow. The participants, part of the country’s rapidly growing yet highly fragmented dairy supply chain, were attending a seminar on food safety fundamentals. It was one of three hosted in Senegal by a dairy safety project funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety.

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Vegetables for sale at a stall in Boeung Trabek market, Phnom Penh.

To boost the nutritional well-being of its population, Cambodia’s government has made a big push to increase the production and consumption of fresh produce throughout the country. For vegetables which are consumed uncooked, such as lettuce, preventing contamination from bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses is a food safety challenge. New research from a team of Cambodia- and U.S.-based scientists shows that distribution centers have a role to play in reducing foodborne illness.

Researchers funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety have been analyzing the fresh vegetable distribution chain in Cambodia — from farmers to distribution centers to fresh market sellers — to understand where contamination occurs and identify intervention strategies to strengthen food safety practices.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, many new concerns for food safety and food businesses followed. To address this, members of a newly developed international task force mentored by food safety experts at the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell held virtual information office hour sessions. These sessions provided science-based information on COVID-19 and protocols to reduce transmission in food businesses and address industry questions that ranged from the vaccine to the application of non-food-grade sanitizers to foods.

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The landscape review of food safety efforts in Cambodia titled “Food Safety in Cambodia: Current Programs and Opportunities” describes the current status of food safety governance, surveillance, research, and partnerships and advocates for strengthening food safety practices and policies by addressing seven key gaps and opportunities in Cambodia’s food safety environment.

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