Since 2017, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)-led ‘Market-based approaches to improving the safety of pork in Vietnam’ or SafePORK project has been developing and evaluating market-based ways of improving the safety of food to reduce the burden of food-borne diseases in the country. The project’s work focuses on informal, emerging and niche markets targeting small- and medium-scale pork value chains. In its final years, the project has achieved meaningful improvements in food safety practices leading to increased income for smallholder pig farmers.
Impact at the national scale
In 2021, SafePORK researchers provided substantial inputs to Vietnam’s preparation for the United Nations Food System Summit (UNFSS) in September. The project’s results were incorporated in discussions and presented at the national and regional dialogues on UNFSS’s Action Track 1—Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all. As a result, food safety gained strong attention during the UNFSS. The President of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, also highlighted the project’s results in a speech at the summit in New York.
Following the UNFSS, the SafePORK team joined a core group providing food safety-related inputs into the draft of the National Action Plan for Food System Transformation, a process facilitated by the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Earlier, in December 2020, ILRI/SafePORK researchers had led a session on food safety at the quarterly meeting of Vietnam’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG). Since June 2021, ILRI has served as chair of FSWG—in recognition of a decade of pork safety research by the institute and national partners in an initiative funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which started with the former PigRISK project and now with SafePORK project.
Improving market linkages and food safety for indigenous Ban pork
In January 2021, the Hoa Binh Province authorities and the Department of Intellectual Property under the Ministry of Science and Technology recognized the Ban pig breed benefiting 90 Ban pig farmers in the Da Bac Ban Pig Cooperative of Da Bac District in the country’s northwest. Thirty of these producers and operators of two slaughterhouses have since participated in better market recognition trading under SafePORK.
To help promote the Ban Pig trademark, in April 2021, SafePORK also trained members of the Da Bac Ban Pig Cooperative on good slaughter practices to improve pork safety. The training was co-hosted by the National Institute of Animal Sciences (NIAS) and the Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH). Participants learned about the risks of cross-contamination in pork and the regulations for hygienic pig slaughter and handling. The project also provided them with pork handling tables and helped set up stainless steel grids in the slaughterhouses to reduce cross-contamination of pork. Since the training, the slaughter team has shifted from slaughtering pigs and filtering meat directly on the floor to using grids and tables for handling pork and keeping the slaughtering areas clean.
Before this training, in 2020, six leaders of the cooperative had participated in SafePORK-led training sessions on strengthening market connection and promoting production linkages. They visited a Ban Pig Cooperative in Muong Pa, Hoa Binh Province, to learn from farmers there.
In addition to building capacity, the SafePORK project has helped the cooperative reach new private partners interested in processing and marketing of Ban pork. NIAS officials also visited food stores and introduced the Ban pork products to them. One of the interviewees, Happy Mart, a safe food store chain in Hanoi decided to visit the cooperative and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties on price, order quantity, handling and delivery of Ban pork. This will pave the way for the cooperative to establish a safe pork value chain with a certified collective trademark.
‘In the past, we merely sold live pigs to small-scale traders. Then, the store came to order and guided us on how to handle pork to meet Hanoi customers’ tastes, which is far different from the way we normally did. Also, thanks to being trained by SafePORK on storing pork in a freezer which the project provided, we could meet the store’s demand for safe pork. Now we sell pigs in more stable quantities and at higher prices, 10-15%, than we sold to traders so we are very happy,’ said Xa Van Lam, president of the Ban Pig Cooperative in Da Bac District.
Strengthening risk communication along the pork value chains
A major output of the SafePORK project in 2021 was widely disseminated risk communication training sessions for targeted key actors in the pork value chains, which had significant impact at the community level. Training topics covered food hygiene, meat inspection, food safety risks and risk communication.
More than 446 participants of whom 301 were female, participated in various training events or study visits. They included cooperative farmers, slaughterers, retailers, canteen staff and officials of local authorities. Among them were 98 local veterinary and public health staff who attended training of trainers (TOT) sessions.
Notably, many local canteen staff have also been engaged in risk communication activities thanks to a joint effort between ILRI and the Division of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) of Tien Lu District, Hung Yen Province. After a successful training session targeting community members at the project sites in November 2020, Tien Lu DARD requested ILRI/SafePORK to provide similar training for the canteen staff. A post-training evaluation demonstrated a significant increase of knowledge in targeted trainees. A handbook for canteen staff is currently being developed based on this training experience and will be launched this year.
The SafePORK project is funded by ACIAR and co-implemented by ILRI, HUPH, the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), NIAS and the University of Sydney.
For more information contact ILRI’s Fred Unger, f.unger[at]cgiar.org
(The post was written by Le Thi Thanh Huyen, Chi Nguyen and Fred Unger. Le Thi Thanh Huyen works for NIAS and Chi Nguyen and Fred Unger work for ILRI in Vietnam)