The voices of women cooks in food markets in La Paz
This paper (PDF) by Hivos and IIED shares results of research carried out together with women vendors in dining areas of markets in La Paz, Bolivia, guided by interest and concerns of the vendors themselves. Bolivian people’s diets have changed significantly in recent years due to urbanisation, increased purchasing power, and changes in consumer preferences. However, the food system in cities is still based on the traditional wholesale and retail markets. Dining areas inside these markets are important for people to access nutritious, affordable food, as well as keeping the country’s culinary traditions alive. Nevertheless, the viability of these market dining areas is threatened by competition and by changes in consumption patterns. Results show that market dining areas operate in fierce competition from businesses in the surrounding area. The women vendors are worried about falling sales and the increasing number of places selling food outside the market. Their main concern is how to improve their businesses to prevent further losses of customers and income. Therefore it is important to understand their customers. Customers mostly have positive opinions of the food, the service and prices. Compared with businesses nearby, the lunches at the market dining provide nutritious food at low prices. Customers’ main priorities are to make the market dining areas more comfortable and improve cleanliness. The key lessons from the the women vendors are: 1) Essential to build trust and understand that research is unfamiliar, which may make people suspicious. 2) Patience is essential to develop trust. It also requires flexibility and investment of time and resources. 3) When citizens are involved, researchers need to be aware that objectives may differ from those envisaged at the outset. 4) Moving from evidence to action is not an automatic process; it requires time, capacity and the will to act. 5) Research that focuses on citizens opens up new opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue with decision makers.
A related blog can be found here.