The ILRI 2019 Annual Report> It begins in the lab

ILRI/Trang Le
Training by SafePORK project on good hygiene practices for pork retailers in Hung Yen Province, Vietnam

Food safety interventions: Reducing risks from traditional pork value chains in Cambodia and Vietnam

A package of interventions focusing on improving sanitation and hygiene conditions in traditional pork value chains can help enhance the safety of food in the developing country context

By Chi Nguyen

ILRI scientists and their partners have developed and evaluated various food safety interventions at small-scale slaughterhouses and traditional markets in Cambodia and Vietnam to determine which practices can best contribute towards safer, more hygienic pork in the two countries.

Pork is the most important animal-source food in Cambodia and Vietnam. Largely produced on small-scale farms and providing livelihood opportunities for millions of smallholders, pork is primarily processed and distributed through traditional slaughterhouses and open market outlets. While these outlets meet local demand, there are some concerns that they face hygiene and food safety challenges.

The research findings were developed under the auspices of projects sponsored by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (PigRISK and SafePORK projects in Vietnam) and the United States Agency for International Development Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock-funded Safe Food, Fair Food project in Cambodia (SFFF).

These approaches were designed to be owned locally and have good potential for scaling up.

The research showed that microbial risks through improper hygiene and cross contamination are likely to cause most food safety concerns and health impacts. Results from a survey conducted from September 2018 to March 2019 at selected traditional markets in four provinces in Vietnam showed high levels of contamination of pork with Salmonella (64%). In Cambodia, a market assessment by SFFF conducted from October 2018 to August 2019 in 25 provinces showed a high level of biological contamination of pork with Salmonella (43%) and Staphylococcus aureus (31%).

A woman selling meat in a traditional market in Hanoi late 2019. (photo credit: ILRI/Chi Nguyen).

Given that various approaches such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), certification and traceability have been tried with marginal uptake, ILRI’s research team, in conjunction with government partnerships, undertook a number of new interventions using a standardized approach that included risk assessments, participatory diagnostic, formative research, and pilot testing of intervention approaches.

Interventions at slaughterhouses in Vietnam included the use of tailored stainless-steel grids to avoid floor slaughter; frequent washing of hands of slaughterers and surfaces; and better separation of clean and dirty zones, to help reduce contamination of carcasses. A stainless-steel grid had been successfully piloted and was further evaluated in the project.

At traditional retail markets, researchers introduced more hygienic practices such as separation of ready-to-eat and raw pork or intestines and frequent washing of meat-selling surfaces and hands of sellers. Interventions at retail markets were supported by promotion of good-hygiene-pork branding to retailers and formative research. Beginning in July 2019, selected retailers in Vietnam received hygienic cutting boards to test their feasibility for daily use. In Cambodia and Vietnam, training programs in good hygiene practices were scheduled for local inspectors and retailers. Similar interventions are being implemented in Cambodia.

The pilot trial and experience demonstrated that technical solutions need to go along with behaviour change of butchers and retailers.

This desired behavioural change of pork value chain actors can be supported by the ‘nudge theory’, which describes how individuals can be encouraged to act in a way that produces a net societal benefit. Project team members partnered with researchers from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom who provided expertise on ‘behavioural nudge’ research.

The nudge research comprised focus group discussions, key informant interviews and a stakeholder workshop to gain information from value chain actors on potential ‘nudges’ that could support food safety interventions at slaughterhouses and retail outlets. The research is ongoing, and the next step is a trial to test a site-specific nudge at retail by using positively or negatively framed coloured posters with food safety messages. This will allow a formal assessment of the nudge’s impact on behaviour of targeted retailers.

Initial results from the ongoing interventions showed a trend for hygienic improvements with reduced total bacterial counts at both retail markets and slaughterhouses in Vietnam. Results from participatory diagnostic tests demonstrated the willingness of most actors to improve their practices, but the level of compliance varied widely. Retailers preferred the use of cheaper, locally produced equipment, such as local cutting boards versus imported ones. Butchers and pork retailers also appreciated the incentive-based approach promoted by the research team. This included in-cash offers, increased pork sale volume, better reputations and the promotion of a good-hygiene-pork brand.

ILRI and partners will start scaling up successful interventions in mid-2020. In Vietnam, this is planned to be done with the support of local sub-departments of animal health and possibly through other upcoming large-scale food safety initiatives in Vietnam. In Cambodia, upscaling is expected to be carried out in partnership with the National Animal Health and Production Institute (NAHPRI) through the provincial animal health systems from September 2020 onwards.

Better lives through Livestock

How the other half works:
Making a living with livestock

International Livestock Research Institute2019 Annual Report

Photo credit: ILRI/Georgina Smith
Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general (l) with ILRI board chair Lindsay Falvey(photo credits: ILRI/Alexandra de Athayde and ILRI/Susan MacMillan)


We are publishing the 2019 annual report of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) during a global pandemic whose impacts on human health and the global economy have already proven catastrophic. Both COVID-19 and recent events around the world have shown that inequalities of various kinds—social, racial and economic, among others—remain powerful forces that need to be addressed. At ILRI, we are committed to ensuring that our research on livestock contributes in a multitude of ways to addressing the current crisis, from preventing future pandemics to helping those most impacted by the present one. We are working on livestock solutions that help re-ignite economies, support health and nutrition, and build up sustainable and resilient food systems in the poorer parts of the world.

This report’s focus on gender is especially timely. Few societies in the world are free from inequalities arising from gender, as few are free from inequalities of race, status and multiple other kinds of division.

read more

A gendered lens: Women, men and the future of livestock

Picture a livestock keeper in the developing world. In all likelihood, you are visualizing a man, perhaps herding cows and goats across a savanna or ploughing a piece of farmland with bullocks. The very term ‘animal husbandry’—which refers to the care, cultivation and breeding of animals—denotes masculine qualities, deriving as it does from late Old English (‘male head of a household’). But of course, it is not only men who keep livestock.

In fact, some two-thirds of the developing world’s hundreds of millions of poor livestock keepers are women, not men. In these countries, women, not men, perform most of the work in farm and herding households that goes into caring for animals. It is these women, not their menfolk, who do most of the day-to-day farm animal management as well as the processing, marketing and selling of the milk and eggs their animals produce. And it is developing-country women, not men, who typically make daily household decisions regarding a family’s chickens and other small stock.

read more

Nicoline de Haan, ILRI gender team leader(photo credit: CGIAR CRP on Water, Land and Ecosystems)

Thanks to our Donors and Partners

we worked on


Projects in 2019

  • 63


  • 70


  • 118


  • 11,839


The animals they keep

Feature stories highlighting ILRI's gender work

ILRI is a research-for-development institute, dedicated to a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. Its projects and initiatives reach beyond the library or the laboratory to the real world. The four stories that follow depict with journalistic flair and photographic detail the opportunities and challenges facing women and men building a better future for themselves through livestock.

The CGIAR gender platform

A renewed platform on gender aims to give greater voice to women farmers in the developing world Hosted by ILRI, the multi-centre collaborative effort will focus on gender equality and transformative food systems

Women farmers in the developing world face a host of challenges, from balancing domestic and agricultural chores to securing access to land and markets. To help women achieve gender equality in food systems, and to sustainably defeat hunger and enhance nutrition, CGIAR has launched a CGIAR GENDER Platform. The platform aims to create a ‘new normal’-a world in which greater gender equality drives more equitable, sustainable, productive and climate-resilient food systems.
ILRI is proud to serve as host for a new CGIAR-wide platform on gender issues in global agricultural research for development. Known as GENDER (Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results), the platform aims to help transform the way gender research is done, both within and beyond CGIAR, and to help kick-start a process of genuine change towards greater gender equality and better lives for smallholder farmers everywhere.

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, stated, 'GENDER is well positioned to produce far-reaching and enduring impacts because it will aim to give a voice to the millions of women who today are mostly excluded from the extremely urgent efforts to produce enough, and good enough, food under the climate crisis. Only when both women and men are empowered to transform food systems can they successfully nourish families, communities and entire nations, today and in the future.'
Launched in January 2020, GENDER builds on a wealth of research and learning generated by the previous CGIAR Gender Network and the Collaborative Platform for Gender Research (2011–2019). It includes all 14 CGIAR research centres, 12 collaborative CGIAR research programs and 3 other CGIAR system-wide research support platforms and will forge alliances with change-makers in government, academia, national agricultural research extension systems and non-governmental organizations.

ILRI's gender team

It begins in the lab

But extends to the field

Fighting animal disease, planting better forages, preventing the dangerous spread of antimicrobial-resistant infections and improving food safety all require meticulous scientific work. ILRI’s biosciences division provides researchers with the time and resources to carry out that painstaking research. These stories show how ILRI is working to find solutions that will progressively reduce poverty and improve human health.

Building for the future

Making tomorrow’s breakthroughs possible

Tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs can only happen if we invest in people and institutions today. ILRI maintains a variety of programs to enhance mission effectiveness and stimulate global research on livestock in the developing world. Its internship program has hosted scores of undergraduate interns from the world over—the next generation of livestock scientists. Its Ethiopia campus provides a model of how CGIAR centres can work synergistically. And its pioneering genotyping platform is helping scientists throughout Africa to modernize and strengthen breeding programs.

The right policies

The science of livestock systems

Because they are embedded in structures that extend from the family home to global trade, the economics, policies and social science of livestock systems remain ILRI's focus. ILRI’s scientists are helping the Kenyan government develop land-use policies to ensure a viable future for the country’s millions of pastoralists. They are identifying sustainable, bottom-up, stakeholder-led interventions in livestock value chains. And they are ensuring that farmers in Africa participate in climate-smart solutions that maximize productivity while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

ILRI digital reach and social media


Website performance since launch in March 2019

  • Users +81%
  • Pageviews +123%

Top 2019 science journal articlesfrom ILRI programs