Inception Meeting For Food Safety Projects in Ethiopia Funded by the Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development in Ethiopia
A multi-project meeting was held for the four Bill & Melinda Gates foundation/UK Department for International Development (now the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) -funded projects, including TARTARE, Pull-Push, ENSURE, and FOCAL, was held on February 11-15, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The purpose of the meeting was to establish processes for aligning and coordinating work in Ethiopia across these projects and to engage stakeholders in the work. Project leads from The Ohio State University (OSU), The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa University (AAU), and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) were joined by collaborators from The University of Florida (UF). The OSU-TARTARE team was represented by Principal Investigator Barbara Kowalcyk as well as Kara Morgan, Aaron Beczkiewicz, Ahmed Yousef, Mark Weir, Wondwossen Gebreyes, Getnet Yimer, and the OSU Global One Health initiative (GOHi) regional office team.
On Monday, the meeting kicked off with individual project meetings hosted at the OSU-GOHi regional office, AAU, and ILRI offices. Next, a joint planning session was held with team members from all four projects Joint planning topics included geographic focus of each project, discussion of areas for collaboration in small working groups, gender considerations, data and information sharing, and communication. Working groups for the meeting consisted of:
- a protocols group to discuss microbiological and metadata protocols,
- a capacity building group to discuss mentorship and skills training for PhD students and value chain actors,
- a policy engagement group,
- an intervention studies group including the dairy, beef, poultry, and vegetable value chains, and
- a risk analysis group.
For the next two days in Addis, several members of the project teams attended the WHO/FAO/AU food safety conference held at the African Union Conference Center.In addition, several site visits were conducting, including AAU laboratories, local hospital laboratories and data storage center, a local health clinic, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, a dairy production site, a local abattoir, and an urban market with ready-to-eat outlets and live poultry.
The final two days consisted of a stakeholder meeting with representatives from the Ethiopian government, industry, academic, and commercial sectors, held at the Hilton Hotel. The keynote speeches included introductions from the state Ministers of Agriculture and Health. On the first day of the stakeholder workshops, each project was presented to the stakeholders, allowing time for questions and suggestions from stakeholders. The final day of the meeting consisted of breaking out into groups with the stakeholders, and closed with wrap up joint planning meeting. The closing session included discussion of the importance of cross-sectorial collaboration and data sharing for effective foodborne disease surveillance and food safety decision making, and how such collaboration can be organized in Low-and Middle-Income Countries.
Overall, the meeting served as an excellent model for other joint project collaborations by providing projects with a cost-effective strategy, reducing the burden on the target population (study subjects), enabling more accurate results, avoiding redundant and biased information, making the data more uniform, and motivating actors both directly and indirectly involved in the work. The workshop also gave collaborators a chance to meet face-to-face and identify areas of possible interaction as well as to ask questions and address concerns and potential challenges. Getting stakeholder feedback and buy-in was one of the most important parts of this meeting, helping collaborators understand how food safety value chains function in Ethiopia and making collaborators aware of cultural norms to help ensure that implementations are sustainable.