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Heavy post-harvest losses weigh on Lake Tanganyika fish value chain

Heavy post-harvest losses weigh on Lake Tanganyika fish value chain

BOATS cuts through choppy waters to a landing site at Kibirizi fish market in Kigoma Region.

After an arduous fishing journey, tired fishermen are happy to finally making it to the landing site before the sun rises with a good haul of Lake Tanganyika’s luciolates stappersii known locally as migebuka along with sprat (stolothrissa tanganicae) and sardines (limnothrissa miodon).

But, their hopes of making a fortune from their fish catch reach a blunt end at the market as not all the fish are fit for sale.

Some of the migebuka are to be thrown away because they have already decayed and are unsellable demonstrating a serious problem of post-harvest losses in the fisheries sector that makes artisanal fishers, processors and traders wallow in poverty. The losses and waste can occur at varying intensities in different stages of the value chain.

For the Lake Tanganyika perch, over half of fish catch may have decayed by the time the fishers return to the landing site due to poor fishing methods and non-use ice or cooling boxes when fishing.

For the sprat and sardine, the losses and wastes happen because fishers put their fish on drying racks that are exposed to insects, birds and the weather.

Catches of small sardine-like silver lake fish are always dried on the ground, where they become easy pickings for animals and vulnerable to contamination or being trampled.

When it rains, fish cannot dry properly so start to rot. For Lake Tanganyika fishers, the post-harvest losses, which include severe spoilage of fish which make them unsellable, can reach 70 per cent in rainy seasons due to the poor fishing, processing and handling methods, according to a study on value chain analysis of Lake Tanganyika sardine, sprat and perch by FISH4ACP project.

The project is supported by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation aims at improving and safeguarding the sardine, sprat and perch value chains in Lake Tanganyika by investing in inclusive growth to bolster food security for future generations, reduce poverty and Lake Tanganyika fishers.

Participants in the workshop who included officers from the Ministry of Livestick and Fisheries discussed how to best prioritize FISH- 4ACP interventions, such as improving fishing and processing methods and supporting cash-generating activities to increase the incomes of fishery-dependent populations – fishers, processors, and traders.

Tanzania is the leading producer of sardines, sprat and perch in Lake Tanganyika. The small fishery sector employs 27,000 fishermen and 11,000 processors, the majority of whom use artisanal methods.

At present, 90 percent of the fish caught by artisanal fishers on Lake Tanganyika is sold to local artisanal processors, who smoke the perch or sun-dry the sprat and sardines (dagaa).

The remainder is purchased by wholesalers, exporters and retailers. The sprat and sardine from Lake Tanganyika are usually dried as soon as possible after landing and as a result, fresh sardines and sprats are scarce. The supply of sardine, sprat and perch is unstable throughout the year, particularly in areas far from Lake Tanganyika, limiting consumers’ access to these products.

The workshop, served as a platform to discuss, validate and receive feedback on the value chain analysis and initiate the development of a shared strategy for the Lake Tanganyika fisheries.

Potential activities were identified to protect and strengthen the value chain by investing in inclusive growth to increase food security for future generations, reduce poverty, and contribute to the conservation of natural resources.

“Post-harvest loss in the small scale fishery is a challenge that is very dear to us,” said the Director of Aquaculture in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Nazael Madalla. Dr Madalla who had represented the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Dr Rashid Tamatamah at the workshop said the government was eager to reduce post-harvest losses of the artisanal small-scale fishery in Lake Tanganyika by rehabilitating existing landing sites and constructing new ones.

“We are trying to improve post-harvest facilities. One, we are rehabilitating a few selected landing sites. It is not possible to rehabilitate them all at once, so every financial year we set aside funds for that purpose. In other places we’re constructing new landing sites,” he told reporters.

He said the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries was at the forefront of developing the fishing industry in the country through various policies, strategies, legislations and programmes, including the recent 2020 amendment of regulations and fees. The government had set contribute to the conservation of natural resources.

FISH4ACP project in collaboration with Tanzania Fisheries Institution (TAFIRI) brought together artisanal fishermen, processors and traders to a two-day workshop in Kigoma in August to validate study findings of their study on the value chain analysis of aside 50bn/- in the current financial year to build fishing port in Bagamoyo, Coast Region and would also set aside funds for upgrading infrastructures of fish landing sites in Lake Tanganyika shores, he said.

“We see the importance of the contribution of fisheries in food and nutrition security. Not only that but also its importance to the economy. We want fishermen’s efforts shouldn’t be wasted at landing sites. Why should he be forced to sell his fish at low prices just because he can’t put them in a freezer?

The government is also focused to promote cooperative societies in the small smallscale fishery sector to help artisanal fishermen, processors and other stakeholders along the value chain to access loans and financial support from banks and other institutions, he said.

“When you put these stakeholders together, when they have their cooperative society and go to a bank they will get loans and they can invest in infrastructures at landing sites which they will own,” he said.

The Director General of Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI) Dr Ismael Kimirei research, whose findings were being analyzed, involved all fish stakeholders along the value chain in Lake Tanganyika’s small-scale fisheries sector from boat makers, fishing net suppliers to fishermen, fish processors and traders. “We interviewed close to 500 people. It was not an easy job.

We went to all regions bordering Lake Tanganyika and we went to all markets where Lake Tanganyika fish are supplied, from Tunduma to Dar es Salaam which is the biggest market,” said Dr Kimirei.

He said among other things the findings showed Lake Tanganyika fishing business was small-scale and mainly for subsistence.

“The value chain is for small-scale stakeholders, artisanal fishermen, processors and traders. We hope stakeholders will be interested to see how this sector evolves in the next two or three years,” he said.

“Whatever we do, be it research or outreach, we involve the fishers every step of the way,” said Dr Kimirei.

“We have supported fishers with energy-efficient smoking kilns to process sardine and perch, particularly during the rainy season when post-harvest losses are higher. We have also been educating them on the use of ice on the lake and at the landing site during fish handling to reduce wastage.”


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