Food and Water Safety

Control strategies

Area 3: To identify cost-effective control strategies available to the poor to reduce the risk of a specific food hazard so as to maintain, improve and establish market access

The goal of this research area is to provide evidence-based information on the cost-effectiveness of existing control technologies currently used to reduce the food safety or plant and animal health concerns in developing countries, and to understand what is preventing these mechanisms from being adopted.

Research questions

  1. What is the disease or food safety prevalence in the commodity of concern at pre and post harvest (as the product moves along the value chain)? What are the economic and livelihood consequences of a specific disease or food safety hazard on the poor and on market access?
  2. Among the risk pathways of a specific disease or food safety hazard, which are the most critical points of entry for reducing risk of a specific hazard or disease? What are cost-effective pathogen/pesticide reduction technologies/strategies that can be developed/adapted for poor producers/processors with regards to specific commodity/pathogen combinations? What types of institutional mechanisms would get people to alter behaviors and adopt these cost-effective control strategies?
  3. What are the specific commodity value chain actors’ awareness, attitudes, perceptions and knowledge regarding a disease or food safety hazard and what is their willingness to pay for implementing testing and effective control strategies?
  4. Do SPS and other technical barriers benefit the poor or do they unnecessarily restrict export opportunities of developing countries?


  • The economic impact and livelihood consequence of the specific disease or food safety hazard being looked at is high, such as production losses, trade losses, and productivity losses.
  • Critical control points for reduced risk reduction can be identified.
  • There are cost-effective control strategies that the poor can adopt at critical control points.
  • The control strategy chosen may differ depending on the spatial spread of the disease or food safety hazard.
  • The poor will be willing to pay for the adoption of certain control strategies if they were made aware of the risks and rewards and, knew of cost-effective control measures.
  • Small farmers might be particularly disadvantaged under SPS agreement as they have limited resources to meet the SPS requirements.

Research approach and methods that may be used depending on case being studied

  • Risk pathway analysis of the flow of commodity of interest from preharvest to consumption followed by a risk assessment and simulation models based on the risk assessment to identify the critical control points where food or disease hazard control methods are needed;
  • Development of risk maps;
  • Development of spatially explicit, dynamic disease spreading models;
  • Focus group discussions and household surveys to collect both qualitative and quantitative data for the assessment of economic and livelihood impacts analyses;
  • Estimate the economic impacts of the human health problems associated with consumption of a food safety hazard using econometric (multiple regression) models, input/output models, and multi-market simulation models;
  • A value chain approach in collecting data on the costs and benefits of control measures along the value chain, followed by cost benefit analysis of the portfolio of risk management strategies being used to prevent the specific hazard or spread of a disease;
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis so as to understand the ability of various control measures to reduce risk for all size stakeholders for a specific commodity in study countries;
  • Attitude perceptions and practices surveys to understand the status of information and awareness among the actors in the value chains of the hazard or disease problem and ways to mitigate it so as to understand reasons for uptake or rejection of certain practices followed by analysis of the results of the survey. Implementation of participatory methods (e.g., focus group discussions, preference ranking, matrix ranking) to understand what farmers and other actors along the value chain think of currently available testing and control methods and what are the main factors (e.g., cost, accessibility, ease of use) that contribute to adoption or lack of these technologies;
  • Implement a series of quantitative valuation studies or contingent valuation studies to estimate the key stakeholders’ willingness to pay for testing and control technologies followed by econometric analysis to estimate the stakeholders’ willingness to pay for various technologies which would then be weighed against their costs;
  • Behavioral experiments (related to choice experiments of the type above) to elicit agents’ economic preferences and how such preferences interact with institutions to give rise to behavioral data.

Projects to date

Assessing Potential Economic Impact of Avian Influenza on Poultry in Latin America

This study analyzes ex-ante the potential impact of an outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) in 21 countries of Central and South America and uses a cost/benefit analysis to assess investments to prevent and control the disease. The study reviews the impact of recent outbreaks of AI in Southeast Asia and uses this information to define two scenarios (rapid response versus slow response) in Latin America to estimate the different costs that may occur to an economy depending on the response rate. A probability of occurrence is assigned to each scenario based on the status and capacity of veterinary services in different countries to respond to an outbreak of AI. Investments to prevent and control AI in each of these countries are estimated and then evaluated using a probability distribution of costs and benefits that result from these investments.


Assessing Potential Impact of Avian Influenza on Poultry in West Africa

There have been confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks in West Africa since February 2006. Thousands of chickens have been dead of the deadly virus or slaughtered as a control measure. The spread of HPAI posts a great challenge to the poultry industry, in particular the livelihood of many smallholder poultry farmers in West Africa. Based on one important characteristic of AI spread and transmission, a spatial model, using most recent spatial distribution of chicken and human population, is developed in this paper. The spatial model is used to analyze potential economic impact of avian influenza (AI) in West Africa, taking Nigeria as an example. The analysis shows that depending on the affected areas, AI can directly hit Nigeria chicken production and the negative production impact can be as large as 2.4 to 4.4 percent along either bird migratory flyway passing through the country, and 7 percent in the current outbreak zones. However, the indirect effects, induced by consumers’ response to reduce chicken consumption and hence the declines in chicken prices is generally larger than the direct effect. In the worse case scenario, Nigerian chicken production would fall by 21 percent and chicken farmers would lose US$250 million revenue. While most attentions have been focused on preventing a global influenza pandemic, the current paper shows these preventive measures have great impact on poultry industry and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in West Africa.


Enhancing Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Developing Countries through Compensation: Issues and Good Practice

The study is a product of collaborative work of IFPRI, the World Bank, FAO, and ARD. The main objectives of the study are to discuss the purposes of compensation, review experience, link compensation practices to success in culling strategies, analyze how inappropriate compensation packages (such as in overcompensation) can create perverse incentives, illustrate pitfalls and uncertainties, and develop recommendations based on observed good practice.

The desired outcome is to facilitate changes in compensation practices that improve disease control through more prompt reporting of disease and better compliance with culling initiatives. The study reviewed issues and formulate recommendations on the following items of good practice:

  • Deciding who to compensate;
  • Types of losses to be compensated;
  • Setting the level and timeliness of compensation;
  • Promoting awareness, communication, and capacity building;
  • Organizing payment while promoting accountability;
  • Shifting compensation strategies as the disease becomes endemic.


Understanding HPAI – A Review of the Emergence, Spread, Control, Prevention and Effects of Asian-Lineage H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Viruses

The overall objective of this paper is to review the many issues surrounding the emergence, persistence, spread and control of avian influenza, focusing on the current epizootic of H5N1 HPAI. It highlights what is known and not known about the disease, and examines some of the speculation and issues relating to its emergence and control. It specifically examines factors associated with the poultry subsector1 that may have contributed to its emergence and spread, and also the impact of the disease (and of the measures used for its control) on smallholders and the rural poor in developing countries. The paper explores the various mechanisms of persistence and spread of H5N1 HPAI viruses - both proven and possible - in order to understand better the sources of virus and the modes of transmission. It does this in an effort to separate science from perception, and to highlight areas where uncertainty remains.

It examines many of the unresolved questions regarding the emergence of HPAI (and, specifically, of H5N1 HPAI since 1996), using lessons from previous outbreaks of avian influenza as a guide. The crucial role of ducks in the genesis of the current outbreak and as reservoirs of infection is highlighted, as are ways that risk can be contained. The paper also examines the roles played by different poultry species, wild birds, and human-mediated (anthropogenic) factors in the emergence and spread of this disease (Chapters 3 and 4). Live-bird markets have been blamed for maintaining and spreading avian influenza viruses and pose major challenges to veterinary authorities. The role of these markets in the spread and maintenance of HPAI and other avian influenza viruses is discussed, along with information on methods that have been used to prevent infection in these markets.


Pro-Poor HPAI Risk Reduction Strategies (2007-2010)

Pro-poor HPAI Risk Reduction website

The emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and the threat of a global human pandemic have been issues of great concern to the international community in recent years. The problem is compounded by uncertainty regarding the timing, extent and severity of HPAI, and the risk of human infection.

In addition to loses caused by actual outbreaks, control and prevention strategies have significant associated economic and social costs, including the direct costs of standard disease control measures – such as compensation, vaccination, eradication and bio-security – as well as the indirect costs of building institutions and mechanisms to support those measures. Significant indirect costs also stem from wide-spread market shocks, which place a heavy burden not only on poultry producers of all sizes, input suppliers, and others along the poultry value chain, but also on consumers. Therefore, when designing effective, cost-efficient strategies to control and prevent the disease, both direct and indirect costs must be weighed against direct and indirect benefits.

In many affected countries, poultry production is highly heterogeneous; hence, the effectiveness and efficiency of control and prevention strategies are likely to vary significantly across production units depending on their size and levels of bio-security. Policy makers are therefore questioning whether any one strategy will really work in any given country. In many developing countries, a great majority of the rural and peri-urban poor are involved in small-scale or backyard poultry production, typically characterised by low levels of bio-security. Small-scale producers depend on poultry for their livelihoods, food security and nutritional needs. Often poultry constitute a quick and high-return investment opportunity for breaking out of the poverty trap.

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) has funded a collaborative action-oriented and multi-disciplinary research project on HPAI control and prevention strategies. The purpose of this project is to aid decision makers in developing pro-poor HPAI control and prevention strategies that are not only cost-effective and efficient, but also livelihood enhancing, particularly for the rural poor in developing countries. It is expected that the project will inform the agenda for national and international action by challenging conventional wisdom through evidence-based research founded on constructive dialogues among scientists, policy makers, industry and farmers.

The project will be implemented in a number of Asian and African countries that have recently experienced HPAI outbreaks, including Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam. Investigations will also be carried out in Ethiopia and Kenya, countries in which there has been no outbreak of disease.

The project aims to address existing knowledge gaps, as well as urgent needs that may emerge during the project’s life, by drawing together existing information and supplementing it. Emphasis will be given to key priority issues within each project country depending on the current situation and needs. The main areas of work will be the following:

  • What are the pathways by which HPAI can spread to poultry in each study country, and what is the likelihood that it will spread by each identified pathway?
  • Where are the critical control points for mitigation of HPAI risk in each study country, given the over-arching objective of averting a global human pandemic?
  • What is the epidemiological impact of various control and prevention strategies in each study country, and what are the economic costs and benefits associated with each strategy at each identified control point?
  • How are the costs and benefits of various control and prevention strategies distributed among different segments of the population in each study country, with particular emphasis on the poor?
  • What are the cost-effective control strategies or bio-security measures that are most likely to be implemented (i.e. adopted) by the poor in each study country?
  • What are the institutions and incentive mechanisms that would enable or impede adoption of control and prevention strategies that are both effective and propoor in each study country, and how can these be facilitated by interaction with international institutions?
  • What type of decision and communication processes need to be in place in each country to ensure that research findings are incorporated into the policies and plans for HPAI control and prevention?
  • What are the similarities and differences among various control and prevention strategies, and institutions and incentive mechanisms for different countries depending on their epidemiological and economic situation?

As well as generating information to close knowledge gaps in the area of pro-poor HPAI control and prevention strategies, the project strongly emphasizes the capacity building of national decision makers in the project countries to interpret risk, economic, livelihood and institutional analyses. It also prioritises prompt and accessible communication of the findings to decision makers. Successful advocacy is expected to ensure the development and implementation of efficient, effective and socially-equitable HPAI control and prevention strategies and, ultimately, to reduce the risk of a human pandemic through sustainable control of disease at its source in poultry.

Pro-poor HPAI Risk Reduction website

Exploring the Scope of Cost-Effective Aflatoxin Risk Reduction Strategies in Maize and Groundnut Value Chains so as to Improve Market Access of the Poor in Africa (2008-2011)

See also, the AflaControl website

Aflatoxin is one of the most dangerous types of mycotoxins. In general all mycotoxins are toxic including being carcinogenic. The ingestion of high mycotoxin concentrations can be fatal, while chronic exposures may result in cancers, liver diseases, abortion, immune suppression, interference in micronutrient metabolism, liver cirrhosis and retarded growth. Although exposure to mycotoxins is controlled in developed countries, most people living in developing countries have chronic exposure to mycotoxins in their diets. The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 4.5 billion people living in developing countries may be chronically exposed to aflatoxin, the most toxic mycotoxin, through their diets.

Because of health concerns of consumers in developed countries aflatoxin impedes market access internationally. High levels of aflatoxins heavily impact producers and exporters of groundnuts and maize who are made to adhere to aflatoxin regulation standards in order to keep trade flow active. Strict regulation standards are very costly to adhere to from the standpoint of smallholder groundnut and maize producers in developing countries. The economic costs to value chain actors associated with aflatoxin contamination include disposal of food and feed, but also economic losses caused by lower productivity (of both humans and livestock), as well as income losses incurred by inspection, sampling and analysis before and after shipments and marketing.

This project aims to provide evidence-based information on the cost-effectiveness of existing control technologies currently used to reduce the risk of human and animal exposure to aflatoxin contamination in developing countries, and to understand what is preventing these mechanisms from being adopted. By doing so it is expected that identified cost-effective will be implemented and lead toward improve market access to the poor. The case studies of interest are groundnut and maize value chains in Mali and Kenya. A multi-disciplinary research team will work to accomplish five goals: 1) estimate the economic impact of Aflatoxin contamination on market access and livelihoods, trade, and health; 2) produce a consistent and technically sound database on aflatoxin prevalence in selected sites in study countries and the effectiveness of control strategies; 3) use a risk analysis framework to a) develop risk maps based on predictive models that identify high risk areas within study countries for aflatoxin given climatic conditions; b) conduct a risk assessment of baseline risk and how control measures alter that risk; c) conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of risk management methods for reducing aflatoxin prevalence so as to provide insight into the decision-making process; 4) conduct primary surveys of maize and groundnut value chain actors to investigate a) awareness, attitudes, perceptions and knowledge regarding aflatoxin, and b) willingness to pay for various testing and effective control technologies to reduce aflatoxin prevalence, and 5) make information available so as to inform the decision-making process. The value of the project to smallholders is twofold. First it will lead to an economic benefit because smallholders trade in local markets and second it will lead to health benefits, because smallholders and their families consume most of what they grow.

The aim of this project is to increase knowledge of available methods and technologies to reduce aflatoxin contamination, their effectiveness, costs, benefits and to identify constraints to their adoption and appropriate incentives needed to ensure their use along the maize and groundnut value chains so as to improve market access of the poor.