Wet market biosecurity reform: three social narratives influence stakeholder responses in Vietnam, Kenya, and the Philippines

Kevin Bardosh*, Renzo R. Guinto, Salome A. Bukachi, Tran Minh Hang, Marianne K. Bongcac, Mara Ysabella M. de los Santos, Caroline M. Mburu, Jackielyn Abela, David Kelly, Cecily Maller

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

In 2020, Covid-19 led to global policy statements promoting bans and reforms to wet markets in Asia and Africa to prevent future pandemics. We conducted a comparative, exploratory qualitative study in 2021 in three countries (Kenya, Vietnam and the Philippines) to understand the social and political dimensions to biosecurity reform at wet markets. This included 60 key informant interviews and rapid ethnographic research in 15 markets, as well as a review of policy documents and online media articles. We found no evidence that the rhetoric of pandemic spillover that emerged in 2020 had any influence on policy or reform efforts apart from those related to Covid-19 infection control. Rather, we identified three main narratives that frame the problem of biosecurity and preferences for reform. The first, a human health narrative, questioned global framings about pandemic risk, viewed markets as sources for food security rather than disease, emphasized the need to strengthen the control of endemic diseases, and conceptualized health through the lens of ‘freshness’ rather than biomedical categories. A second modernization narrative approached biosecurity as part of a broader process of socio-economic development that emphasized infrastructural gaps, spatial arrangements, cleanliness and a conflict between reform and economic interests. A third narrative centered on local livelihoods and the tension between local market stakeholders and biosecurity and modernization efforts. This final narrative called into question the appropriateness of certain regulations and policies, including bans and closures, emphasized the importance of preserving cultural heritage and highlighted the need for collective political action to resist certain veterinary policies. In conclusion, wet market biosecurity strategies occur in the context of three contrasting narratives that emphasize different aspects of health and risk, and reflect different worldviews and interests. Within this context, there is a need for local government to strengthen market management and biosecurity in ways that enhance the agency of market stakeholders and strengthen local livelihoods and food security as part of a pluralistic and democratic politics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0001704
Number of pages23
JournalPLOS Global Public Health
Volume3
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2023

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