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Monday, January 5, 2015

05/01/2015: New fish-drying method in Burundi boosts quality and incomes


Dried fish isn’t the sexiest innovation. But in Burundi it’s changing lives, The Guardian reports.

Along the shores of Lake Tanganyika women have always preserved catches of small sardine-like lake fish called ndagala. The fish were dried on the sandy ground, where they were vulnerable to animals, contamination and rot, especially during the rainy season.

“If the fishes got spoiled and began to smell awfully it was impossible to sell them at market,” Gabriel Butoyi, president of Rumonge fishing port, told the UN.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/dec/31/new-fish-drying-method-in-burundi-boosts-quality-and-incomes

As much as 15 percent of the catch was lost or spoiled during drying, and the surviving sandy fish weren’t exactly appetising.

Ten years ago, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) set up an 18-month test project in the village of Mvugo, on the lake’s shore. With the backing of the government, the FAO constructed 48 wire-mesh racks a metre above the ground, and showed the locals how to make and use them.
The racks reduced drying time by a factor of nine, down to eight hours, kept the fish out of the reach of animals, and could be covered when it rained.

“Our fishes are of a good quality without small gravel or stones and they are dried in hygienic conditions,” rack owner Domitien Ndabaneze said.

“With our products, customers are no longer concerned with eating sandy fish.”

The innovation spread fast, and the number of fish driers has increased fourfold, to more than 2000 people, feeding an estimated 12,000 family members. Given that the quality of fish has improved, demand has increased faster than supply, so the price has more than doubled to US$6/kg.

“It’s extremely rare now to see people drying fish on the ground,” FAO fishery industry officer Yvette Diei-Ouadi said.

“If driers can’t afford wire-mesh racks they will improvise with wood and fishing net. Even fishing communities in neighbouring countries have taken up the rack-drying technique.”

Others have specialised in making the racks to sell.

There are other benefits. The longer, more reliable lifespan and improved taste and texture of the dried fish means that dealers (encourage by the FAO) now buy them to re-sell around the country. Given that 60 percent of Burundians do not receive enough protein, and that the fish are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, they are an excellent source of nutrition for inland areas.

“Fish have nearly magical qualities on the nutritional front, especially the small dried ones that are often eaten up whole or mashed up into pastes that are also eaten whole,” said the FAO’s Christopher Emsden.

Other changes have had mixed results. The more efficient production means output has increased and the number of fishermen has doubled, raising concerns about the lake’s reserves. The FAO has therefore begun teaching locals how to grow other crops, such as mushrooms, when fish stocks are low. 

Similarly, before the rack-drying technique was introduced, 80 percent of the driers were women, who spent much of the day bent over, tending to the fish. Now that has changed, as men keen to make money have joined in, reducing the proportion of fish that women are able to dry. In an attempt to help women driers stay competitive, the FAO now offers access to microcredit schemes. 

Despite these problems, the scheme has helped peacefully resettle the half a million refugees and former fighters displaced during the 1993-2005 civil war. Crispin Niragira was a refugee from 1993 to 2007, and now works as a member of a fish drying association. 

“When we arrived from Tanzania, I was so scared for my family,” Niragira said. 

“We had nothing, no support from anyone. Joining the association has changed our lives. With the money that I earned I was able to put seven children through school, three of whom have now finished.” 

The FAO is attempting to roll out the scheme in other countries, including Uganda, Kenya and Zambia. On the ground in Burundi, it’s already improving lives – and should continue to do so, as long as the fish last.


Read the article HERE.





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