Recovery Dialogues in Latin America 3: Municipal and Neighborhood Food Markets Management

Hands of two people delivering and receiving an apple in a food market.
Written by Resilient Cities Network
Tuesday, 17 November 2020


The cities that participated in this third dialogue are Rio Negro (Colombia), Cuenca (Ecuador), Mexico City (Mexico) and Piura (Peru), accompanied by an expert in the field, Ricardo Fort, the lead researcher for GRADE (Group for the Analysis of Development) on rural development and agrarian economies. The session was moderated by Rebeca Vidal, Senior Executive on Private Sector Analysis and Technical Evaluation at CAF.

Municipal and neighborhood food markets play an important role, both in the commercial system and supply of agricultural products, as well as in the choices households make around food consumption, and the employment and income of a significant part of the population. However, this is a sector whose dynamics, limitations, and possibilities have often lacked sufficient presence in urban planning. It is, therefore, important to creatively explore the transformation of these spaces, capitalizing on their potential as centers of urban life and catalysts of local economies, to generate more resilient alternatives for the cities.

The main challenges and opportunities identified during this session are the following:


Local markets not only provide important services for the most vulnerable population but also represent the commercial heart and spirit of many cities around the world. In the context of the health emergency, it is key to value these spaces and to learn how to properly manage them to face challenges such as the high risk of virus transmission, job losses, the reduction in sales, the rise in prices, etc. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Improve security for vendors and consumers;

2. Provide information for the population on schedules and risk zones to reduce the probability of transmission due to agglomeration;

3. Run awareness campaigns for vendors and consumers;

4. Protect the high risk groups affected by the market dynamics;

5. Reduce the necessity to go to municipal markets, prioritizing smaller neighborhood markets.

For example, Cuenca has developed awareness campaigns to better inform people about prevention measures during the pandemic, using a variety of communication methods such as signaling, sharing best practices through megaphones, visits to communities and through digital platforms. 


One of the greatest challenges of the pandemic has been to protect the wellbeing of the population while avoiding an economic collapse given the necessary partial suspension of productive activities, which impacted both small and large scale businesses in the region. Managing these consequences will require a multidimensional approach, allowing for business continuity through new operational and logistic mechanisms. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Optimize the logistic chains between agricultural and urban zones as well as between retailers and wholesalers;

2. Make the collaboration between multiple market vendors more efficient;

3. Make local offers more visible and enhance the neighborhood-scale entrepreneurship;

4. Merge consolidated market spaces with mobile or itinerant markets;

5. Create new business models which integrate digital technologies;

6. Set forth an inclusive economic recovery.

For example, QUIPU markets, which are digital community markets, are being implemented in response to the pandemic. Their role is to make the offer of local products and services visible, facilitate trade without money, and function as an inclusive economic tool.


As markets are recognized for their operational and administrative complexity, local governments must reinforce the supervision to these spaces, regardless of their degree of formalization or its public or private status. Some of the key challenges for public administrations include the compliance with hygiene and prevention protocols, the collection of detailed information on the conditions and dynamics of markets, and the synergy with social and territorial organizational systems. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Strengthen the control and prevention measures in retail and wholesale markets;

2. Spatial adaptation to pedestrians inside local markets as well as in its surroundings;

3. Create programs for business incentive;

4. Develop or renegotiate governance schemes between public administrations and merchant associations;

5. Collect georeferenced data on the behavior of markets and generate data on consumption patterns in informal sectors;

6. Generate knowledge on effective measures and success stories.

For example, in Metropolitan Lima, GRADE identified priority areas within the city that concentrate the largest quantity of vulnerable population to improve public interventions and social engagement for the prevention of transmission of COVID-19. 

 * This content is the product of a series of dialogues organized by the Resilient Cities Network and CAF, through the Cities with a Future Initiative, to exchange knowledge and good practices among municipalities and key actors in the regional urban ecosystem of Latin American and the Caribbean, aimed at mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

Download full document (Spanish only)

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