A sustainanble Action and Reaction to Street Vending

by Rumbidzai Mashavave

vendors.jpgTo reiterate what has been published in the media and academic publications-Between 53% and 54.6% of street vendors in Harare, Zimbabwe are women and 88.3% of all the vendors interviewed in a study, solely relied on street vending for income.

In order to begin to tackle the problems illegal street vendors bring to public health, misuse of public space and pollution- policy needs to be structured, edited and implemented differently based on research outcomes which provide evidence based solutions.

Why street vending in urban areas should not be eliminated but repositioned

  • Food Security– Street vendors offer cheap basic food ideal for the urban poor.
  • Local producers including home based industries, benefit from street vendors who purchase their goods. As a result of the market in urban areas, they continue to gain sales regardless of the current economic situation.
  • Food and Nutrition Security– In a study in Harare Zimbabwe, 44.6% of the street vendors interviewed supported 3 to 5 dependants through the trade. 38% had 6 or more dependants and only 2.2% did not have any dependants. A separate study, revealed that the standards of living for street vendors improved when compared to their lives prior. In a case study, a family member had suffered from malnutrition. In addition, the majority of the vendors as a result of street vending could afford three meals per day. The rest could afford only 2, but was still an improvement prior to street vending.
  • Access to Public Health – Women as the care givers, expressed their ability to access medical facilities, though limited to clinics. They could take care of their siblings in medical emergencies

What is cross cutting is street vending is a women’s socio-economic empowerment opportunity


  1. The Food and Hygiene by-laws of 1975 and the Hawkers and Street Vendors by-laws of 1978. That food that is traded to the public is positioned on unclean plastic vessels or on pieces of cardboard on the ground, irrespective of the Food and Hygiene By-laws Section

k (II) which stipulates that

“(the public should) not place any food lower than 500 millimetres from the ground on any pavement or in or about any forecourt or yard… ensure that open food, while displayed or exposed for sale or during delivery, is kept covered or is otherwise effectively screened so as to prevent any infection or contamination.”

  1. The Hawkers by-laws require that a vendor can be stationery for not more than 15 minutes. In addition, the by-laws also state that the Council may refuse to issue or renew a hawker’s license if in its opinion, “…the issue of renewal would adversely affect any existing trade or businesses carried out in the area.” The working permit costs $120, per annum which is to be paid in full at once.

Response of vendors to the policies: Regarding the laws, vendors expressed their inability to pay the charge, and the designated areas out of the CBD are far from the clients thus their income decreases drastically. In addition, the designated areas within the CBD are limited and cannot accommodate all the vendors that have since increased as the economic crisis persists.

stock-vector-recommended-icon-Policy recommendations

In as much as public health and food security is being realised by the street vendors and access to health facilities, the issue of tax has to be addressed.

  1. The Hawkers licence can be reduced to enable them to abide to the by- laws. When asked if they are willing to pay- the women street vendors stipulated that they were willing to pay.

Implementation: A cross sectional study needs to be undertaken to determine their daily expenses and sales in order to determine a fee that will not compromise their food security and prompt them to remain illegal. In this way a pro poor policy is implemented.

Stakeholders: street vendors, research consultants, policy makers and the Harare City Council who will enforce the law and educate the street vendors.

  1. With regard to ground and air pollution street vendors are required to periodically do a clean-up of the streets.

Evidence: In Lesotho a street cleaning exercise was called for as a compromise to evicting street vendors which rendered the streets clean.

Stakeholders: Street Vendors, City Council

  1. To manage disease outbreaks as a result of poor sanitation and food handling. There is need to educate the street vendors on the public health policy and give them the resources to abide by them.
  • Short Term: Occupational Health education and support with resources and ideas in transforming available resources through recycling
  • Medium-long term: Install stalls that are a safe distance above the ground as stipulate by policy.
  • Infrastructural development, which includes addition of toilets to relieve the outstretched resources and promote good sanitation practices. However this is a long term goal which requires city planning.

Stakeholders: City Council and relevant infrastructural institutions, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Public health researchers. Street vendors.


  1. Making it mandatory for all vendors to be part of a vendor association will assist them to formally engage with the Council and policy makers. In addition, it would be easier to measure their contribution to the economy and thus make an informed decision on a permanent solution.
  2. This also facilitates the ability to measure nutrition security. WHO reported that in Bamako, a longitudinal study of food consumption patterns revealed that street food accounts for 19-27 percent of food expenses and contributes 134.417kcal per day per person. Street foods provide a source of affordable nutrients to the majority of the people especially the low-income group in the developing countries.

The  recommendations will not address all the issues that come with street vendors, however, it offers a start.

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