Fish project improves incomes, lowers malnutrition in Uganda

Betty Mercy Timber with members of the Ntoroko Women Mukene Fishers Association at Ntoroko landing site, Lake Albert, Western Uganda
In Summary

A fish project is lifting the incomes of fisherfolk around Lake Albert while also fighting malnutrition, […]

A fish project is lifting the incomes of fisherfolk around Lake Albert while also fighting malnutrition, by encouraging consumption of small, often ignored fish species in Ugandan water bodies


In Ugandan lakes, three highly nutritious, finger-sized
fishes, known locally as ‘muziri’, ‘ragoogi’ and ‘mukene’ dominate fish
catches. However, their nutritional – and economic – benefits are not being
realised because high post-harvest losses, caused by improper handling and
processing techniques, impact quality and consumer appeal.
The NutriFish project is making the most out of these fish through the
development of five nutrient-packed, fish-enriched food products, including
a cooking sauce and maize meal for mothers and babies. The fish sauce,
which is used in place of beans as a source of protein, cooks in just 10
minutes compared to 1-3 hours for beans. Local families are therefore able
to cut down on their energy requirements and reduce their environmental
impacts whilst meeting their nutritional needs. The project has also
engaged street vendors who make chapatti, normally served with beans, to
encourage them to sell their flatbread with the fish-enriched sauce to
increase uptake.
It has also tackled Anaemia, a deficiency, caused by low iron consumption,
that is commonplace in Uganda – where malnutrition in general is rife, and
represents a serious challenge to human health and economic development.
Anaemia affects women of reproductive age and children under five years in
particular because these groups struggle to access food of animal origin,
especially fish, due to unavailability and expense. Rich in protein and
other nutrients essential for good health, fish is considered a ‘superfood’
and optimal for child development.
To help communities reduce their post-harvest losses and access a more
reliable supply of processed fish products, NutriFish has introduced solar
tent drying technology as an alternative to traditional open-air
sun-drying. The tent drying process is faster and cleaner than traditional
methods, whilst also being sustainable, and is enhancing the livelihoods of
women who constitute the majority of local fish processers. Processed fish
quality has improved, increasing the shelf life from 6 to 8 weeks, to
nearly 5 months, and has doubled incomes for the women processers.
To further improve the sustainability of small fish processing businesses,
the electronic Catch Assessment Survey (eCAS) assessment survey, a simple
app, has been developed by the project. Fishers can use this on their
mobile phones to collect and transmit catch data on a daily basis. The
information provided by the fishers informs the project when fish stocks
are low. This data is passed on to local policymakers and feeds into
recommendations that help avoid overfishing and ensure sustainable
management of the fish stocks.
Betty Mercy Timbe from Ntoroko landing site on Lake Albert never ate small
fish whilst growing up: “I thought they were too small to eat,” she
explains. But after attending a training session with the project to learn
about the nutritional benefits of fish, she tasted fried mukene for the
first time – “It was very delicious,” she enthuses. Betty has since become
a project ‘champion’, taking the information she learnt back to her
community and encouraging more people to eat small fish by offering them as
snacks at her local bar. She has also been able to mobilise 11 women into
forming a fishing group. Previously, the women had to buy fish from other
fishers – who would determine who got what number of fish – but now, they
own seven boats themselves and since coming together, have been able to
enhance their earnings to an estimated US$1,200 per month from various
fish-trading activities. The women are using the income to meet their
family needs and expand their businesses.

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