The Right to Food

Food rights in Zimbabwe: "If you empower a woman, you have empowered the whole country"

Experts' corner - 10.10.2023

Harare/Rome- Consumer organizations are a powerful force for change towards more sustainable agrifood systems, and their action can strengthen the realization of the human right to adequate food.
In this interview, Rose Mpofu, Director of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), shares an overview on food rights in the country and the region, and underlines the importance of raising awareness, empowering women and food price monitoring.

The situation of consumer organizations and consumers in Eastern and Southern Africa 

What are the major challenges faced by consumer organizations working to protect consumer food rights in the region today? What are the 3 main concerns facing consumers around food in Zimbabwe?

R. Mpofu: There are several challenges faced by consumer organizations in protecting consumer food rights. Some of which are lack of resources, lack of harmonized enforcement of food safety legislation, and lack of technical capacity. As a result, consumer advocates are sometimes faced with challenges when consumers need help and the various food authorities are bogged down with issues of power and sometimes waste time fighting over authority instead of protecting the consumers.

"Consumer advocates are sometimes
faced with challenges when consumers need help." 

There is need for better coordination among consumer voices to allow for greater cooperation and increased protection and impact in food matters, particularly within the regulatory frameworks. This is crucial to make governments and businesses accountable, specifically in the enforcement of food legislation. There is need for an updated Food Safety legislation that adequately spells out the protection process.

Regulatory frameworks are crucial
to make governments and businesses accountable.

In Zimbabwe, the food safety framework still requires a lot of work. This applies to all stages of the food chain; inadequate preventive controls and enforcement in food processing and preparation operations; misuse of chemicals; contaminated raw materials, ingredients and water; lack of standards in the informal food sector, especially the food vendors, and inadequate or improper storage. Furthermore, consumers are not involved in decisions that affect their well-being and often their incomes are not commensurate with the prices of food, as observed in the monthly food basket survey carried out by CCZ. This means that consumers on a low income, in the face of price rises, may compromise on the safety and the quality of the food they eat. There is need to develop standards for food vending because it is a reality.

"Consumers on a low income, in the face of price rises,
may compromise on the safety
and the quality of the food they eat."

Consumer awareness and agency

Approximately 33% of consumer complaints submitted to CCZ are related to food.  How well informed do you think consumers are regarding their rights in relation to food and their responsibilities? How important is advocacy?

R. Mpofu: Almost a third of the complaints received at CCZ concern food issues. Arguably then, consumers fairly understand their rights in relation to food products as evidenced by the significant number of complaints received by CCZ (33%). However, more still needs to be done in terms of educating consumers on their food rights and responsibilities, especially for consumers on a low-income, or those with less formal education access.

The enactment of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) in 2019 marked a turning point. This makes it more necessary than ever to spread out awareness not only to consumers on how they can be protected using the new law, but also to food service providers to align operations with the CPA. Certainly, the continued disregard of consumer rights cannot continue. CCZ was instrumental in securing the approval of the CPA.

"The continued disregard of consumer rights cannot continue."

Much of CCZ advocacy has been targeted at women and youth through the Consumer Action Clubs. Women are often responsible for purchasing and preparing food and they need to be educated on food safety.

When it comes to young people, they represent the future. For this, CCZ continues to advocate for healthy eating especially in schools where scholars are most vulnerable to junk food.

Advocacy plays a critical role in awareness raising. Among other actions, CCZ has organized successful boycotts of poor-quality bread in 2012 and uninspected meat from local butcheries. The organization also hosts World Food Safety Day on the 7th of June and World Food Day celebrations in October, carrying its messages to a national audience. CCZ attends specialized food safety forums and exhibits at national and international forums, as well as engaging with regulatory authorities and policy makers (including with government ministries) and in media conversations.

Market monitoring: food price volatility in times of crisis

Can you tell us about CCZ’s work on food price monitoring? Why is it important, particularly in the context of food crises, and the resulting increasing prices, and to what extent this affects people´s right to food?

R. Mpofu: The CCZ carries out research to better understand consumer issues related to the safety and quality of products on the market as well as monitoring pricing structures, service and utilities provision and their impact on consumer welfare. This involves conducting investigations on issues that affect and are of interest to consumers to raise awareness and publicize them widely. The findings have also proved to be useful for policy makers in view of reviewing outdated policies or drafting new policies. It helps to show how price rises may impact people’s ability to afford and access adequate food.  

As food prices soared on the market from May 2023, CCZ escalated its price monitoring from a weekly exercise to a daily exercise. CCZ also campaigned for a scrapping of import due on specific basic food stuffs in response to the increasing prices which was put into effect by Ministry of Finance.

As part of its research, CCZ carries out price surveys on a regular basis in preparation for the midmonth and the monthly family of six basket reports. This budget is used to help determine the salaries of low-income urban earners, to monitor the trends of prices for basic commodities on the market and to monitor poverty trends. The basket is also used as a key indicator by government, local authorities and workers’ unions during negotiations such as wages and salary negotiations.

Gender: women and consumer empowerment through participation

The formation of CCZ was spearheaded by two prominent Zimbabwean Women’s Organizations, which had active interest in consumer issues. How can the inclusion of a gender lens in consumer protection policies reduce gender inequality and contribute to more sustainable agrifood systems?

R. Mpofu: The term household cannot be separated from women. Women are the custodians of households, they are often the main person responsible for sourcing food, cooking, and teaching values to children. If you empower a woman, you have empowered the whole country.

 "The term household cannot be
separated from women."

The CCZ as a membership-based organization caters for all consumers. In 1999, began to form Consumer Action Clubs (CAC), through which consumer activities, programs and education could be channeled. There are now many CACs across the country, which tend to attract more women and youth at grassroots level. These clubs are involved in consumer awareness activities at community level in issues related to food and nutrition, food safety, and collective food purchasing for bargaining and other price benefits that come with bulk buying. They have been a great success and are an integral part of CCZ functions. Each CAC is autonomous and facilitates grassroots community membership comprising of 10 -20 people, with their individual constitution and leadership structurers.

CCZ has over the years worked very closely with women in their programs for greater efficiency and effectiveness. The CACs are usually based in the same areas to facilitate the meetings, sharing of information, mobilization and support so that women are able to participate fully. This has been key to the success of inclusive CACs.

Lobby for specific consumer legislation 

CCZ was instrumental in the Government’s adoption of the Consumer Protection Legislation of 2019. Can you tell us more about your work on this and the difference such legislation makes to consumers?

R. Mpofu: CCZ lobbied for the enactment of Consumer protection law for more than 15 years. We petitioned parliament to expedite the process of drafting the Act through to its enactment. The lobbying involved nationwide consultations with consumers and other stakeholders. Seven consultative workshops held at provincial level in Bulawayo, Gwanda, Gweru, Chiundura, Masvingo Mutare and Harare, where each workshop drew at least 150 participants. Among the attendees included Academia, the private sector, parliamentarians, the public sector, consumers comprising all age groups, people with disability and civil society.

The new Act has broadened the consumer’s right to education, right to fair value, good quality and safety of goods and services, right to choose and choice of goods and services, right to information and right to be heard. It aims to develop, enhance and protect the rights of the consumer, and eliminate unethical and improper business practices. It stresses the suppliers’ obligation to evaluate their business practices to ensure they comply with the Act and adjust where necessary. Furthermore, it strengthens consumer redress mechanisms, such as granting the CCZ mandate to function as an arbitrating authority for settling consumer disputes.  

About Rose Mpofu and Consumer Council of Zimbabwe

Rosemary Mpofu is the Executive Director of Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ). She is a consumer advocate and an expert in standards, health, and environmental protection. As a promoter of sustainable production and consumption, Rosemary contributes to consumer protection through collaboration with numerous networks and partners to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

CCZ was formally established in December 1975. It extends across all of Zimbabwe, handling consumer complaints, raising awareness through education, research and networking and carrying out lobbying and advocacy.

A key strategy for CCZ is collaboration for the achievement of sustainable consumption. It aims for coordination with different partners who are interested in joint activities to strengthen consumer awareness and build capacity on food related issues, it also seeks to boost its work with women consumers and producers. This includes strengthening joint research on food security, food safety and nutrition activities, building consumer verification testing laboratories to enable CCZ authenticity, and building the capacity of its staff in food related competencies.

In Zimbabwe, the right to adequate food is explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution. The country has a Food and Nutrition Council charged with coordinating, analyzing and promoting a cohesive national multistakeholder response to food and nutrition insecurity, and a National Human Rights Commission.


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