in schools and villages. In partnership with the Cambodian government, WHO
developed standard operating procedures that identified the role and responsibilities of multiple ministries and agencies such as agriculture, commerce,
economy and finance in the investigation and response to foodborne disease
outbreaks—for example, by collecting and testing samples of potentially contaminated food.
To ensure buy-in across a diverse array of stakeholders—a constant challenge
during these types of projects, Mr. Hoejskov says—political commitment and
accountability is needed at a high level. Without that, engagement by stakeholders may slowly fade. Because WHO’s team had secured high-level government
support, the Cambodian project did achieve its goals, he says.
A STEP AHEAD
Australia is facing different threats to its food system—but a program there also
shows the value of strong stakeholder engagement. To be prepared for an attack
of tropical race 4 (also known as Panama disease, which has decimated some
countries’ banana industries), university researchers and the industry realized it
had to bring scattered banana-plant research teams together to cooperate and
focus on the major risks to the industry.
“We realized we needed to move away from small, short-term projects that
compete with each other for funds and resources and that do not necessarily
look at the bigger picture,” says André Drenth, PhD, plant pathologist, Centre
for Plant Science, the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Dr. Drenth had to persuade various research teams to organize their
initiatives under one program. “That
is always the main challenge because
you’re taking leadership away,” he says.
He identified two parts to the success
of the program. First, to get everyone
on board, they had to communicate to
all stakeholders, whether in research,
government or the industry, a clear
vision of what the program aimed to
achieve: a healthy banana industry in Australia. Second, they had to gather the
right team members—and support them with resources and funds. “In a large
research program, I depend on my team members to deliver,” Dr. Drenth says.
“So they need to know that when there are issues, I will be right behind them
to resolve them.”
of the food chain is
making a big difference in
how we manage
—Peter Sousa Hoejskov, World Health
Organization, Manila, Philippines
A worker sprays
pesticides in a