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Vendor management policy is essential to ensure safe and healthy food for the city dwellers

Street food vending is a very common scenario in today’s Dhaka. Both mobile and stationary vendors sell their food items in the public spaces including streets. The street food vendors play an important role to fulfill the food demand of urban dwellers, especially the low- and middle-income ones. Street food vending is also an employment source for the urban poor communities. According to Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh, it is estimated that about 97,000 to 200,000 vendors sell different food items, fruits, and beverages in Dhaka. But there is poor maintenance of hygiene among these food vendors. They lack proper training and monitoring in this regard. Not having license makes it more difficult to bring them under training and monitoring.

Together with Dhaka North City Corporation and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing a three-month-long pilot project, where a database of 100 street food vendor will be created from Vashani Road (Blocks A and B), Mirpur of ward number 5 of Dhaka North City Corporation, and the selected vendors will receive a training on food safety and hygiene. To implement the pilot successfully, a virtual discussion was held by WBB Trust on 23 August 2021 at 11.00 AM on street food vending. Brig. Gen. Md. Zobaidur Rahman, Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, graced the event as the Chief Guest. Speakers at this discussion opined that a vendor management policy is essential to solve these problems and create an income source for City Corporation.

Naima Akter, Project Officer of WBB trust delivered the keynote presentation at this event. She said, “we need to formulate and implement a vendor management policy. It will be possible then to provide license to the food vendors, create their database, monitoring, determining the rights and obligations of the vendors etc. Providing and renewing license can be an income source for the City Corporation. Besides, coordination among the relevant stakeholder, such as City Corporation, police, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Employment should be ensured.”

While delivering the opening speech at this event, Mr. John Taylor, Chief Technical Adviser of the Dhaka System project of FAO Bangladesh, emphasized on the importance of food safety in street food vending. He said, "A large portion of the urban poor population of the city is dependent on the street food. It is now playing a big role in reducing food insecurity among the urban poor. The food safety and hygiene training will help the street food vendors prepare and offer safer food to the urban dwellers."

Chief Guest at the event, Brig. Gen. Md. Zobaidur Rahman, said, “we should undertake field level initiatives to bring the street food vendors under a management. City Corporation is the major stakeholder in this regard, and we have already started to discuss on how to bring this workforce under licensing. To maintain cleanliness and hygiene, it is important to increase awareness. We need to build a social movement.”

Chief Town Planner of Dhaka North City Corporation Maksud Hashem said that, along with meeting food demand, creating employment, street food vending plays an important role to creating socialization opportunity. They are using the public spaces of the city. If we adopt a city-wide public space management plan it will be easier to bring them under management.

Professor Dr Abdul Alim said, this pilot project will create a database. It is possible to designate a place for the street food vendors. If City Corporation provides registration to them, it will be an earning for the City Corporation and vendors will not be victim of extortion.

Director of WBB Trust Gaous Pearee presided over the discussion meeting. She said, each year the number of street food vendors are increasing in our city. We need a plan about how many vendors we can accommodate in our city. Also, we need a vendor management policy to bring the street food vendors under training and monitoring. Street food vendors play an important role to meet our food demand, as well as it is earning source for a significant portion of the population. We want a proper management for them.

The virtual discussion meeting was moderated by Senior Project Officer of WBB Trust, Ziaur Rahman. Other speakers of the program were Zohora Khanum, Scoi-Economic and Nutrition Expert of LIUPC/UNDP, DNCC; General Secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (B.I.P) Adil Mohammed Khan; Dr. Zeba Mahmud, Senior Advisor of Alive&Thrive; Executive Director of MPUS MD Yaqub Ali; Executive Director of Seiam MD Masum Billah and many more.