Govt, local authorities urged to decentralise informal markets

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POVERTY Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) — a civil society organisation that seeks to influence policy towards sustainable human development — has called on the government and local authorities to decentralise informal markets like Mbare Musika to curb the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and reduce the risk of exposure to the deadly virus.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week gave a directive to reopen informal fruit and vegetable markets following an outcry from farmers and vendors whose products were rotting because of the 21-day lockdown.

“As PRFT, we welcome the reopening of the informal fruit and vegetable markets which are an important source of livelihood for our farmers and informal traders.

“However, we are concerned at the business as usual approach where important issues of social distancing and hygiene at these markets are disregarded,” PRFT said in a statement.

“Government and local authorities should take over the distributional role of produce as a way of minimising the movement of farmers and traders. Markets for agricultural inputs must be decentralised as well to limit movement of farmers.

“The centralisation of the wholesale market as is the case of Mbare in Harare poses a huge risk while the unclean environment also presents a health hazard beyond Covid-19.”

The Trust added that there is need to move away from a centralised wholesale fruit and vegetables market towards smaller markets across the country and making use of pre-existing infrastructure where possible, in the process decongesting Mbare Musika.

Congested informal markets are not the only threats as mealie-meal queues are also breeding grounds for the spread of the virus.

“The mealie-meal shortages are also another source of huge crowds across the country, reducing the efficiency of the lockdown,” PRFT noted.

“Mealie-meal sales must be decentralised and households allocated time according to surnames, places of residence or any other criteria that ensure there is order and adequate supplies for everyone.

“Government must also decisively deal with the corruption and black market in the mealie-meal sector.”

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