Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo
Policy approaches aiming to suppress the informal sector are generally ineffective; in some cases, they can actually decrease the quality and safety of food. Similarly, food and nutrition policies that simply ignore the informal sector may fail to have effects for low-income populations. Finally, nutrition initiatives that include the informal sector may contribute to the success of parallel initiatives involving formal businesses, since formal businesses generally compete with informal businesses and respond to their behaviours. Developing new approaches that engage informal food businesses is therefore an important policy priority. Yet programmatic action in the informal sector has not been examined in a systematic way in the context of food and nutrition.
This review finds that there are substantial benefits of adopting a facilitative approach towards informal businesses: in particular ‘light-touch’ interventions centred around training and behaviour change can yield significant improvements in the quality of products and services. At the same time, these approaches are not panaceas; the case studies emphasise that ‘light-touch’ interventions do not lead to technically perfect outcomes: post-intervention performance is patchy, and inappropriate products and practices remain. Yet, by triggering moderate improvements in informal markets, these programmes may have substantial benefits for the poor.
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