Technology beats fish post-harvest losses


They live along the lake but people of Msaka Beach and surrounding villages prefer smoked fish to fresh ones.

One resident of the area Martha Jana says apart from being tasty, smoked fish is cheaper. “With K1,000 , one can buy lots of smoked fish. But the same amount can’t buy enough fresh fish for lunch and dinner, let alone a kilogramme of meat,” she says.

“Smoked fish is tasty and easy to store. Many people around here don’t have refrigerators to store fresh fish,” says Leornald Tangonena Banda, a small-scale fisher at the beach, who is also Chairperson for Chimphamba Beach Village Committee (BVC)


Banda is now able to supply smoked fish to his customers regardless of the weather.

This is unlike in the past. Banda’s quest to satisfy customers was costly. He lost lots of fish mainly due to adverse weather conditions.

“Then, I used to dry the fish in the sun on the locally made mats. This was difficult during rainy season where I could lose either half of my fish or the whole fortune,” he recalls.


Apart from sun drying, Banda and other fishers at Msaka Beach would also use firewood to dry the fish, a thing which required the use of hordes of trees. This contributed to deforestation.

But Banda and other fishers have discovered new techniques of saving firewood and minimising post-harvest losses — the use of round brick ovens to smoke fish.

Food and Agriculture Organisation says 90 percent of captured fisheries in Malawi is preserved by means of smoking or roasting (40 percent) and sun drying (50 percent).

World fish website says between 27 and 39 percent of the global fish catch is being wasted each year but the impact of these losses is most felt by the poor in developing countries.

Senior Adviser at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam and Value Chain Consultant at World Fish Froukje Kruijssen says the poor (like Banda) are so vulnerable to post-harvest losses.

Governance and Capacity Development Specialist for (Pact) Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats (Fish) Dick Kachilonda says fish post-harvest losses are an enormous issue in the country.

H e s a y s s t u d i e s t h a t were done before indicate that 40 percent of the fish that is harves ted is l o s t .

“Our project will conduct a fresh research. We are engaging research partners to find ways of addressing the issue using fresh information. We are now putting tools together, we are not sure if the losses will still be at 40 percent,” Kachilonda explains.

He commends people of Msaka Beach for coming up with a local solution t o p o s t – h a r v e s t l o s e s .

Kachi londa s ays F ish project with funding from Usaid has helped to strengthen the capacity of BVCs and Village Natural Resource Management Commi t tees and fisheries governance. The BVCs were already there as they were established by the Fisheries Department but they were not active.

“We trained BVCs in their various roles and they are now active. They are like extension workers in rural areas whom we have trained to train other fishers in their communities,” he explains.

Fish project is working in four freshwater ecosystems of Lake Malawi (South East Arm), Lake Malombe, Lake Chirwa and Lake Chiuta.

Department of Fisheries D e p u t y D i r e c t o r S t e v e Donda says the department wishes to have every fish be effectively utilised, whether it is for consumption or sale.

“We want the fish to reach the end user in its right form not rotten. If fish is lost, we lose in terms of nutrients and finances. There is need to reduce post-harvest losses,” he says, adding that the department is promoting proper fish handling.

“If they don’t want to sell fresh fish, they can sun-dry or smoke it. We, however, don’t recommend smoking on open fire because it requires the use of trees and thereby contributing to deforestation,” he says.

He says much as people of Msaka are using new methods of smoking the fish, they need to also consider the use of other modern methods such as solar dryer house. This is a house made of translucent thick plastics where the fish dries without weather interruptions. There are zero losses.

Fish is the main source of animal protein in the Malawi, with the contribution of over 70 percent of the dietary animal protein in take of Malawians, and 40 percent of the total protein supply.

Head of Nutrition in the Ministry of Health Janet Guta says fish is a rich source of protein whether it is fresh or dried.

“Small fish such as kapenta, usipa and bonya, among others, are more nutritious and affordable by most people. Smoked fish still has calcium regardless of the fact that it’s been exposed to heat. Calcium remains in the fish’s bones,” she explains.

Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development annual economic report of 2016 indicates that fisheries contributes to four percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

It says in 2015, the industry earned 144,000 metric tonnes of fish amounting to K108 billion.

Fisheries industry is a source of livelihood of 10 percent of Malawi’s 17 million people.

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