W.M. Ssali, J.E. Reynolds and A.R. Ward2
Project UNDP/FAO UGA/87/007
In Uganda, the long-term socio-economic costs of wastages in the post-harvest sector of the fisheries involve more than the loss of income and nutritional benefits to fisherfolk communities and their dependent consumer populations. Such losses are serious enough in themselves. But established methods of fish processing also place great pressure on valuable and often increasingly scarce timber stocks. From a forestry and environmental management standpoint, this is also a kind of “post-harvest loss”, and forms part of a wider complex of events associated with recent developments in the Uganda fisheries. This paper reviews these events of change, and draws attention to such underlying factors as “the Nile perch effect” in Lake Victoria, shifting channels of product distribution and marketing, and the consequences of prolonged periods of deterioration in the country's infrastructural network. Discussion also covers experiences with attempts to ameliorate fish and forest product losses through use of improved traditional processing technology on the one hand, and more industrial, capital-intensive handling and distribution methods on the other. Finally, future prospects for meeting the array of socio-economic and environmental problems and challenges posed by the “post-harvest loss complex” are identified.
En Ouganda les coûts socio-économiques causés par les pertes dans le secteur après la capture, impliquent plus que des pertes de revenu ou d'aliments. Ces dernières sont assez sérieuses, mais les méthodes de transformation causent également une forte pression sur les ressources forestières. Du point de vu de l'aménagement de l'environnement et des forêts, cette pression signifie aussi une sorte de perte après la capture. Elle fait partie d'un ensemble de changements liés au développement des pêcheries ougandaises. Le document passe en revue ces changements en soulignant les facteurs qui en sont à la base, tels que “l'effet de la perche du Nil dans le lac Victoria”, les nouvelles filières de distribution et commercialisation, et la longue période de détérioration de toute infrastructure. Il passe aussi en revue les expériences visant à reduire les pertes de poisson et de bois. Ces expériences comprenaient l'utilisation d'une part de technologies de transformation traditionnelles améliorées, d'autre part de méthodes de conservation et de distribution de type industriel et nécessitant un investissement élevé. Le document identifie les perspectives visant à faire face aux problèmes socio-économiques et qui sont causés par le système après la capture.
1 Views expressed are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Uganda Department of Fisheries or of FAO.
2 W.M.S. Ssali, Fisheries Officer i/c, Fish Technology Laboratory, Fisheries Department, P.O. Box 168, Entebbe, Uganda (equal co-author); J.E. Reynolds, Socio-Economist, UGA/87/007, P.O. Box 521, Kampala, Uganda (equal co-author); A.R. Ward, Fisheries Research Officer, 13 Ripon Way, Carlton Miniott, Thirsk, North Yorks, Y07 4LR, UK (equal co-author)
1.1 Uganda Fisheries: A Profile3
Uganda is a country endowed with vast freshwater resources which together cover some 17% of its 241 000 km2 total area. The national population amounts to approximately 17 million people (1989 estimate) of whom roughly 90% are reckoned to dwell in rural settings. Population densities vary across the country but most people live in the southern and southwestern regions, where rainfall and soil fertility are more favourable to crop and livestock production. With the exception of Lake Albert, the major water bodies of the country are also found in these regions (Figure 1). Lakes Edward and George lie in the western Rift Valley, close to the Zaire border. Lake Kyoga, occupying a central position between the northern and southern halves of the country, is fed by the River Nile as it drains north from Lake Victoria. The broad expanse of Lake Victoria itself is shared with Tanzania and Kenya, with some 31 000 km2 or about 45% of its waters lying within Ugandan boundaries (Welcomme, 1972).
Between them, the Great Lakes fisheries of Uganda represent a major source of food supply for the national population. Following a steady growth in production over the past several years, particularly for the fisheries of Lake Victoria, it is now reckoned that fish contribute more than 50% of the total animal protein intake for the national population, with average per capita consumption estimated at about 13 kg/year. Within fisherfolk communities along the lakeshores and amongst residents in major urban consuming centres, and especially Kampala, per capita consumption reaches far higher levels, probably of the order of 50–60 kg (MPED, 1990).
1.2 Food and Forests: The Post-Harvest Loss Complex
A considerable proportion of the catch from all waters is processed in some form, usually through smoke curing. Post-harvest losses in processed fish resulting from spoilage and pest infestation, and the ensuing disadvantages for processors, traders, and ultimately, the consumer population, have been commented by various observers over the years (e.g., Crutchfield, 1959; Semakula, 1967). They still occur to a very serious extent (FISHIN Project Field Observations and SEC Field Reports 1989–90). But the true scope of what might be called the “post-harvest loss complex” in Uganda fisheries does not simply stop here. Established methods of fish processing also place great pressure on valuable and often increasingly scarce green timber stocks, a circumstance that must be viewed with alarm from a forestry and environmental management standpoint.
Recent developments in the fisheries and the wider socio-economic context within which they are situated have drastically exacerbated problems in the post-harvest sector. In the following sections, these developments and their consequences are briefly reviewed. Case examples of projects and commercial undertakings which may be helping to counter post-harvest loss problems are then discussed. Finally, suggestions for more effective action to meet the array of socio-economic and environmental challenges posed by the “post-harvest loss complex” are presented.
2. RECENT TRENDS IN THE FISHERIES
2.1 Evolution of Catch Levels
Table 1 provides time series data on annual catch levels in Uganda over the period 1961–1989, broken down by major fisheries regions. The data used are summarized from official Government publications of catch statistics collected by Uganda Fisheries Department (UFD) field staff. It should be stressed however, that this statistical record must be interpreted with caution, as there is room for considerable further improvement in the monitoring and reporting system (Reynolds, Weanya and Nyeko, 1989).
Despite their shortcomings, the data nevertheless depict a picture of substantial changes in national catch levels. Total annual catch peaked in 1978 at 222 200 t and as of 1989 stood at 211 200 t, from a base of 59 400 t recorded in 1961 (Figure 2). Records of fishing effort in terms of active canoes (UFD, 1988) indicate that there were only 5 900 craft in use in 1961; the canoes now number 16 000. Increased fishing effort, together with the introduction of exotic fast-growing species into Lakes Victoria, Kyoga, George and Edward, obviously contributed to the rapid rise in catches.
3 Portions of the descriptive background material in this and following sections have been derived from Kirema-Mukasa and Reynolds (1990) and Orach-Meza, Coenen and Reynolds (1990).
Effort exerted on fish stocks remained high (over 13 000 canoes) throughout the period of peak catches in the 1970s. The subsequent decline in catches can be associated with inadequate supply of fishing gear such as gillnets and hooks in the country, as well as with civil strife in the fishing zones. From the early 1980s, marked changes in the species composition of catches were also becoming apparent, especially with regard to the proliferation of the introduced Nile perch in Lake Victoria (Acere, 1986; Reynolds and Greboval, 1988).
Despite its long history of subsistence and commercial exploitation, immense area, and huge potential, the Lake Victoria fishery was for many years not the main contributor to the national catch. For a long time this distinction rested with Lake Kyoga, the smaller and shallower complex of flooded river valleys into which Victoria flows. Comparison of the trends apparent in Figure 3 (for Lake Kyoga) and Figure 4 (for Lake Victoria) shows that Lake Kyoga production consistently outstripped that of Victoria through the 1970s until the mid 1980s, when the situation reversed.
This can be attributed to several factors, including: increased use of illegal gear and destructive fishing practices due to a severe shortage of inputs; a gradual decline in water level over the last decade or so; deterioration of feeder roads providing access to and from the landings; and a severe disruption of fishing operations from several landing sites caused by problems of civil insecurity.
Lake Victoria, meanwhile, was following a different course of development. The statistical record (Table 2) depicts a peak in the annual catches occurring in 1969, and then a steady decrease down to a low of around 10 000 t in 1980, at the time when input shortages were hampering all the country's fisheries. From then, the explosive increase of Lates niloticus (Nile perch or mputa) in the Ugandan sector of Lake Victoria made itself apparent in spectacular fashion. Starting from a level of less than 1 000 t in 1981, catches of Lates rocketed to a level of 92 000 t in 1988, the last year for which returns are available. Earlier harvest levels were thus not only recovered, but overwhelmingly surpassed. It is interesting also that over the last few years there has been a distinct improvement in tilapia catches (mostly Oreochromis). For 1988, combined Nile perch and tilapia catches accounted for 97% of the total tonnage recorded for the Ugandan sector of the lake.
From a human nutrition point of view, this sudden availability of high quality animal protein must be seen as one of the more fortunate events in the recent history of the country - a history otherwise marked by widespread instability and severe disruption in food production, both at the farm and processing/manufacturing levels. The bounty of the new fishery for Nile perch proved so great that it could partly compensate not only for setbacks in the agriculture and livestock sectors, but for the temporary loss or decline of the contribution of the other major fisheries of the country.
The situation regarding Lake Kyoga has already been mentioned. The highly productive fisheries of Lakes Edward, George, and Albert in the west also suffered disruptions. The general breakdown in road communications and in the cash economy, as well as the outbreaks of civil unrest, cut them off from traditional major markets for fresh and processed fish in the eastern, central, and northwestern parts of the country. The Lakes Edward and George fisheries, in particular, were isolated environs (Reynolds and Greboval 1988). Already by the early 1970s, the supply of frozen fish from Lake Edward and Lake George had become erratic and in the late 1970s, after years of mismanagement and other problems, TUFMAC's processing plant on Lake George ceased operations (Reynolds and Mukasa, 1989).
Despite the fact that the situation has now stabilized and road links to the west and elsewhere are steadily being improved, the transformation in distribution and marketing patterns that were attendant upon the disruptions and the great influx of Nile perch products, both fresh and processed, remains and may even have intensified. The result in the case of the western lakes fisheries is an almost complete reversal of patterns of trade from the pre-Nile perch days. Lake Victoria's new status as a major “foodbasket” for the nation has had far-reaching implications in this and other ways, as will now be discussed in more detail.
2.2 Changes in the Post-Harvest Sector
Historically, the distribution of fresh fish in Uganda was mostly restricted to the fringe zone around the principal lakes. Relatively high ambient temperatures and transport constraints have always made it difficult to supply areas further afield. Yet because major urban centres (e.g., Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja, Busia and Masaka) lie within this belt, and are also well served with road and transport links, a substantial proportion of the country's fish-consuming population has generally enjoyed ready access to fresh fish (Crutchfield, 1959; TDRI, 1983).
Processing in one form or another is widely practised and has been considerably stimulated within the last ten to fifteen years due to general deterioration in communications infrastructure and the dramatic overall increase in fish harvests from Lake Victoria (TDRI, 1983; FISHIN Project Field Observations 1989–90). Forms of processing include sun-drying, salting, frying and smoking.
Sun-drying is of limited importance, restricted mainly to processing of the small pelagic species Rastrineobola argentea (= mukene or dagaa locally) and juvenile tilapia.
Salting is a traditional mode of processing in the fisheries of the western lakes, and particularly for Lake Albert. Salted products are not popular amongst Uganda consumers, but have always enjoyed a strong demand in Zaire markets. Salting is now becoming established as a new method of fish processing on various Lake Victoria islands. It is mainly employed for small sized Nile perch, and the resulting products are mostly directed to Zaire and northern Uganda (UFD, 1988).
Frying is becoming a popular method as far as Nile perch is concerned. Fried perch, often prepared in its own oil, widely sold in the regular municipal markets of urban centres around the lakeshore, has also become and extremely common item in the numerous informal neighbourhood street markets that have become a stock feature of city life. Mputa in this form is often nicknamed sabulenya. Usually eaten as a snack, it is particularly appreciated by the patrons of local drinking places, where it replaces roasted chicken and meat as an affordable indulgence. Although the frying method is often used to process tilapia in the Lakes Edward-George area, tilapia from Lake Victoria are rarely prepared in this way. An interesting detail which attests to the widespread impact of Victoria Nile perch is that processors around Lakes Edward and George often use its oil for frying other fish.
Hot smoking is by far the most popular processing method and is reputed to provide the best returns to the processor. There is great variation between landing sites. On many of the Lake Victoria islands, virtually 100% of the catch is smoke cured, since consignments must be bulked and stored for periods of a few days or more whilst transport to mainland points is awaited. The same pattern is noticeable within the more remote fishing settlements around the western lakes. Road conditions can make it impossible to move shipments by road for weeks at a time (TDRI, 1983; Reynolds, 1990).
Smoking and frying demand great quantities of fuelwood, and this demand grows as the movement of fresh fish becomes more difficult because of poor access roads, increase in the amount of fish being landed and in need of disposal to market outlets, and/or a combination of the two. The relatively high fat content of the Victoria Nile perch must also be taken into account, since this lengthens the drying time and thus increases the amount of fuelwood required for smoking a given quantity of fish.
Localized shortages of fuelwood due in whole or in part to the activities of fish processors have been noted for some areas at least since the late 1950s (Crutchfield, 1959; Semakula, 1967). The situations is now known to be critical on certain islands of Lake Victoria, and in some fishing settlements of the western lakes complex (Dunn, 1989; FISHIN Project Field Observations 1989–90).
Such pressure on a scarce and valuable resource base must be seen within the wider national crisis of deforestation in Uganda. Loss of forest cover over recent years has been of staggering proportions. A reduction of 40% is claimed for the period from 1970 to 1987. Some 2% of the country's highland tropical forests are thought to be lost every year (Oguntaala, 1989; cf. Hamilton, 1984). The situation is nothing short of disastrous and clearly warrants deep concern and urgent action.
3. TOWARDS IMPROVEMENTS IN POST-HARVEST SECTOR PERFORMANCE
Within the last few years, there have been several developments in both the industrial and artisanal aspects of the post-harvest sector which promise to yield positive results in terms of fuelwood conservation. Better product keeping qualities, and therefore enhanced availability of fish protein, are also likely to accrue as benefits to the country.
3.1 New Developments in Industrial Handling and Processing
3.1.1 Private and parastatal firms
Several small-scale industrial plants have been established to handle and process specialized fish products for premium local markets (hotels, the diplomatic and expatriate community, and the urban elite) as well as the fleeting export trade (Reynolds and Ssali, 1990). Three private firms and two parastatal companies are involved in these operations. Gomba Fishing Industries Ltd. at Jinja is the largest private firm and produces cold and hot smoked fillets of tilapia and Nile perch, smoked split whole tilapia, frozen fillets of tilapia and Nile perch, salted/dried split tilapia and fresh whole gutted fish. Quality Foods Ltd. near Entebbe is involved in the supply of fresh chilled whole fish and fillets of tilapia and Nile perch for the export market (direct air shipment), and Hot Food Industries located at Gaba close to Kampala is just commencing operations and will produce according to requirements.
Of the parastatal companies, the Kampala Ice Plant, which started as a joint venture between the People's Republic of China and the UFD, handles limited quantities of both fresh and frozen fish. Although designed as a central wholesale market, it has never effectively fulfilled this role. It now serves mainly as an ice production service used by various food and beverage concerns in the city.
The newly established Uganda Fisheries Enterprises Ltd. (UFEL), a government-owned venture based at Masese in Jinja, has recently started production for both the domestic and export trade. In terms of investment and operational scale, UFEL is by far the most ambitious fish processing concern in the country. It is discussed as a case example below.
3.1.2 UFEL: fresh chilled fish for local markets
UFEL is part of a wider scheme for fisheries development in Uganda known as the Integrated Fisheries Project. UFEL facilities comprise a modern fish processing plant at Masese, three collection centres at lakeshore sites, and three town distribution centres. Funding for the UFEL scheme was provided through a grant by the Italian Government. Construction of the processing plant started in 1987, and was completed in May 1990. The plant is designed to produce a wide range of products, including cold smoked and vacuum-packed fillets of Nile perch and tilapia aimed primarily for export and premium domestic markets. Ice production and chilling facilities are also installed. A unit for processing solid waste into fishmeal for animal feeds is expected to be installed in the near future.
The UFEL collection centres are located at the strategic landings of Majanji on Lake Victoria, and Bukungu and Lwampanga on Lake Kyoga. The collection centres are intended to serve distribution centres in Mbale, Kamuli and Luwero, respectively. Each of the collection and distribution centres is provided with a potable water supply, an ice plant and a chill room. A small fleet of insulated trucks has been employed to transport fish between the collection and distribution points. Although the two town centres at Kamuli and Luwero are not yet fully operational, the one at Mbale is playing a useful role in supplying top quality iced fish to local residents. Mbale has for many years been without an adequate supply of fresh fish. Before the UFEL operation started the town market was receiving about 1 t/day from the Majanji area to the south, on Lake Victoria, via local traders who used hired transport for the most part. These fish were often subjected to poor handling, could not be kept for very long, and either had to be sold the same day or smoked at the market for later sale. Under the UFEL scheme, the daily supply of fresh fish to Mbale has been doubled. Although slightly higher than the normal products available at the town market, the UFEL fish prices are not prohibitive. Consumers often form queues to buy it at various retail kiosks in town.
3.2 Innovations for Artisanal Processing
3.2.1 The CICS Project
The Centro Internazionale di Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (CICS) is an NGO with headquarters in Rome. It is now executing a component of the Integrated Fisheries Project for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Uganda Ministry of Animal Industry and Fisheries. The main objectives of the CICS component are as follows:
stimulate higher productivity in fishing communities around Lakes Victoria and Kyoga in order to increase earnings and create a better standard of living;
foster the formation of fishing cooperatives in production areas and assist already existing societies to achieve economic viability and self-sufficiency by promoting managerial skills and efficiency;
encourage marketing of fish through the adoption of rapid transportation and simple processing methods that guarantee proper hygiene, good quality, and a reduction in post-harvest losses; and
assist fishermen by introducing new fishing techniques and repairing gear and vessels.
The CICS project has thus far established several model sites within the Buvuma Island - Napoleon Gulf area at which Chorkor smokers, cleaning and scaling slabs, and drying stands have been built for practical demonstration purposes. The project has also built certain amenities like pit latrines and water supplies at these sites. It is in addition involved with training programmes for local cooperative society members and staff.
In terms of equipment and gear provision, a revolving fund scheme is being developed through which local fishermen receive loans in kind, to be repaid through the sale of their catches. Efforts are also being made to encourage the use of large diesel outboard engines for propelling transport canoes. A total of six Chorkor model sites have to date been established at various points around the Buvuma Islands area of Lake Victoria. The kilns have proved superior to the local type in that they consume less fuelwood and produce better quality smoked fish with a longer storage life.
Project staff have noted certain problems. Some fisherfolk, traders, and consumers, have complained that the CICS fish lose too much weight under the controlled process of the Chorkor kilns. It is claimed that fish smoked in local type kilns are cured more lightly and are therefore heavier and more appealing to the buyer. Naturally the products which are only lightly cured to not have the same shelflife of the drier Chorkor products. In any event, this complaint is readily dealt with. In cases where markets are close to processing sites and the period of transit to sale is not long, i.e., where shelflife is not a critical issue, processing time within the Chorkor units can easily be adjusted to produce a lightly smoked product similar to that of the local kilns.
More serious are problems of encouraging fish processors to use the cleaning facilities established at the various sites. It is reported that many of them continue to wash and gut fish only in a perfunctory manner, and then again on the ground, with consequent contamination by dirt and sand. Local processors are also reluctant to scale fish before smoking, because unscaled fish retain more water, and are therefore heavier on reaching the market.
Another difficulty concerns the future status of the model handling and processing units built to date. Currently these are under the management of the local landing site cooperative societies, but the question of eventual ownership and access for use of the facilities by non-members of the societies has yet to be resolved.
Despite some drawbacks, CICS personnel and the UFD view the project as having achieved worthwhile results and plans to expand the approach to the fishing communities of the Ssese Islands are now in progress (CICS Project Management, pers. comm., 1990).
3.2.2 Waterborne fish transport: The SICS Project
Under an agreement formalized in August 1998, and as an extension to the original Italian Government grant which provided for the UFEL and CICS projects, a boatbuilding and pier facility is to be constructed at Masese. This work is being carried out by the Società Internazionale per la Cooperazione e lo Sviluppo (SICS). Vehicles, construction materials, and various supplies for the pier and boatyard complex are now on site. It is intended that the SICS project should establish a local capability for the construction of fibreglass and steel-hulled canoes, to be used primarily as transport craft serving the artisanal fishery of Lake Victoria and the UFEL processing plant. Details of ownership and management of the craft have yet to be finalized. Various options are under consideration, including the formation of a new operating company, incorporation as part of UFEL, and ownership by private individuals. Forty fibreglass canoes are initially to be manufactured in Italy and delivered to Masese in order to expedite the start of operations. Ten have already arrived. These canoes are fairly large (9.5 m LOA, 2.5 m Beam, 8.1 m LWL) and are fitted with 27 HP diesel inboard engines. Each is fitted with an insulated container located midships, and capable of holding 1 t of iced fish (Dhatemwa, pers.comm., 1990).
3.2.3 The Kichwamba Fish Processing Research Project
The Kichwamba Region of western Uganda covers the major commercial fisheries of the Lake Edward/Kazinga Channel/Lake George complex. Ten of the thirteen fishing villages of the National Park, an area of some 2 000 km2 that extends from the papyrus swamps north of Lake George southwards along the eastern shore of Lake Edward to the Uganda-Zaire border at Ishasha. Distribution of fresh fish from most of the fishing villages is hampered by poor roads and a lack of handling facilities, a situation that has become much worse over the past twenty years or so. Consequently, a large proportion of the catch - up to 90% in some of the villages - must be preserved in order to reach worthwhile markets in a saleable condition (Ward, 1990).
Three methods of preservation are employed: hot smoking in pit or walled table kiln, deep frying in oil or salting/sun-drying. Salted fish command a ready market in neighbouring Zaire, but an official ban on salting exists, presumably to discourage excess quantities of fish products from being diverted outside local markets. Deep frying is more common in some localities, but by far the greater proportion of processed fish are those which have been smoked. Both frying and smoking require fuelwood, and residents of the fishing villages are often hard-pressed to find adequate supplies. The problem is particularly acute for those who live in the enclaved villages of the Park, since it is illegal to encroach upon Park land to collect wood for any purpose. The Kichwamba Fish Processing Project was launched to help alleviate this situation. Intended to run for two years, the Project began in October 1988 through the cooperation of the UFD, the British Voluntary Service Overseas, and the EEC-funded Artisanal Fisheries Rehabilitation Project. Its main objectives were to:
develop an appropriate fish processing method for Kichwamba Region that reduces firewood requirements while producing a final product of improved quality;
introduce the method developed to local fish processors; and
conduct investigations into the marketing of the improved product, particularly as regards currently under-utilized outlets, such as hospitals and schools.
The first stage of project work was to assess established methods of processing in the Kichwamba Region. Particular attention was paid to fish smoking practices, investigating such questions as patterns of catch disposal in different fishing villages, the extent of processing activity, rate of fuelwood use, operational costs, and so on. It was determined that the duration of smoking operations depends on the type of product to be marketed. “Soft-smoked” fish are cured for 3–4 hours, with a weight loss of 45% and have a shelflife of 4 days. They are intended for sale at nearby markets. The “hard-smoked” varieties are cured for up to 18 hours, with a weight loss of 65–70%, and have a shelflife of 3 months or more.
Work next concentrated on the establishment of a research station and the development of an appropriate fish preservation method. A smoking kiln based on the Chorkor prototype was built and tested. Improvization was guided by three criteria:
the kiln should be fabricated entirely of locally available materials;
it should be easy to build by local labour; and
its construction cost should be the minimum.
A modified Chorkor design was developed, in accordance to local practice and preference, such that the trays which sit atop the firebox hold the fish being smoked in a vertical position, head down. Smoking trials were conducted to check on the fuelwood consumption of the modified kiln, and also to ascertain improvements in product quality through such simple measures as more careful handling, washing and sun-drying of fish prior to smoking. Trial work continued for a period of approximately 9 months.
The next step was field-testing of the improved processing method at selected fishing villages, in order to ascertain its performance and acceptability. New kilns were constructed by the project at three villages within the National Park. A fourth kiln was financed and erected on a private basis by individuals at another village, after they had witnessed operations of one of the project kilns.
In general, response in the fishing villages to the new kiln was extremely positive. Local processors observed that the kiln uses less firewood, that its final products are better in appearance and in greater demand by buyers than traditionally smoked products, and that the operation of the kiln is simpler, cleaner, and less laborious.
Financial and time constraints prevented the extension of the demonstration unit scheme to more villages in the Kichwamba Region. Nor was there enough opportunity to follow up the third project objective of investigating marketing questions, though it was apparent that the products from the new kilns were very acceptable to local buyers. In terms of the first two and most important objectives, however, the project succeeded in developing and introducing an improved method of fish smoking that uses significantly less fuelwood whilst at the same time producing a superior product. It was calculated that if all of the smoked fish of three of the major fishing villages of Kichwamba was to be processed using the new method, a 55% savings in fuelwood would be realized - an amount equivalent to some 446 t/year. In financial terms - of real concern since so much of the fuel used by processors in the region must be purchased - the savings would amount to about USh 2.5 million, the equivalent of US$ 3 500.
In addition to the main focus on kiln operations, preliminary work was also done under the project in other areas, including the use of wood waste (sawdust, shavings) as an alternative fuel, variations in product preparation (splitting fish before smoking and using a technique combining brining, smoking and sun-drying) and testing a solar tent drier. Efforts were also made to establish a model tree nursery and woodlot. While nothing by way of concrete findings and recommendations came of this additional work, promising lines for further investigation and development were identified.
4. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
4.1 The Outlook
There is cause for concern over post-harvest losses in fish and fishery products in Uganda. Such losses translate into financial setbacks for fisherfolk and nutritional and wider socio-economic setbacks for the country as a whole. The problem is severely compounded by the fact that fish smoking intended as a preservative measure to facilitate wider distribution of fish to more people, is contributing to processes of deforestation and environmental degradation. Although this negative trend is likely to continue, it is encouraging to note that efforts are underway to overcome the situation.
A number of points of intervention have been identified. These include private and public company ventures in small-scale industrial handling and processing of fish for both the domestic and export markets. The establishment of fish processing plants has not only widened the scope of preservation methods available, but has provided opportunities for improving existing methods of handling fish. As almost all the newly established plants have ice making facilities, fisherfolk and traders will be encouraged to start icing their fish from the moment of catch, hence prolonging shelflife and reducing spoilage losses.
At the same time, and in view of the magnitude of products involved of even greater importance, there have been promising developments for the artisanal processing sector. Pilot projects have been mounted from which lessons can be learnt and replicated across all major fishery regions of the country. Fish smoking by local processors will remain the most important form of curing for the foreseeable future. Improvements in smoking methods such as the adaptation of the Chorkor kiln to suit local conditions have led to greater fuelwood efficiency and better product quality and shelflife. They are therefore the best immediate means of addressing problems in the post-harvest complex.
Although precedents are provided by the old fish factories that produced frozen products from the Kichwamba Region (Lakes Edward and George) and earlier attempts to introduce improved kilns (Rogers 1970), the developments outlined above are in many respects new experiences within the fishing industry of the country. As indicated, difficulties have been encountered and in some cases projects have not realized their full objectives. Much further research, development and extension work remain to be done. Problems should be tackled on several fronts simultaneously. Furthermore, a multi-disciplinary approach will be required since complicated and diverse issues are involved. These issues relate not only to fish processing technology, but to socio-economics, forestry and environmental management. Recommendations for immediate action are summarized below.
Assessment, planning and development in relation to the fisheries post-harvest sector are severely hampered at present due to the lack of adequate data. For example, though substantial wastage of fish through spoilage and insect infestation is apparent to the observer, no reliable figures on the exact extent have ever been established through field study. Relevant investigations need to be mounted immediately.
Urgent research needs to be carried out on the extent of fuelwood consumption used in each sector, including that of fish processing. Existing documentation is fragmentary and outdated.
As a matter of priority, work on improved fish handling and processing methods in local fisherfolk communities initiated under the CICS and Kichwamba projects should be extended to cover wider areas.
In addition to fuel-efficient kilns, the use of alternative sources of fuel and other forms of fish preservation should be encouraged, such as brining/smoking/sun-drying combinations. Research and development work on alternative fuels for use in fish smoking has been minimal thus far and should now be seriously undertaken. Waste wood products such as shavings and sawdust offer likely possibilities. The feasibility of briquetting papyrus peat (cf. Martin, 1988) and coffee and rice husks for burning in smoking kilns should also be explored. Ample supplies of all these substances are easily obtainable.
The establishment and popularization of common woodlots in and around fishing villages is a further measure to be pursued.
The availabilty of chilled fresh fish at moderate prices has been greatly appreciated by residents of the one town which UFEL has so far been supplying. This augurs well for the UFEL scheme, but a publicity campaign emphasizing the advantages of ice-chilled fish would help to boost consumer acceptance as more distribution centres are opened in other localities.
Beyond these actions, the rehabilitation of the country's infrastructure and particularly of access roads leading to major fish landing points, must be encouraged as much as possible. Rehabilitation will be a gradual process, but it is of the utmost importance. Through improvement of the access roads, it will become possible for more fish to reach more people in more places more rapidly. The necessity to preserve fish by smoking will be much reduced as a consequence and this, in turn, will lessen the pressure on forests and woodlands.
5. REFERENCES CITED
Acere, T.O., 1986. Nile perch, Lates niloticus the scapegoat for the decline/disappearance of the indigenous fish species of Lake Victoria. Paper presented at the UFFRO Seminar on the Current State and Planned Development Strategies of the Fisheries of Lakes Victoria and Kyoga. Jinja, October 1986: 37 p. (mimeo)
Crutchfield, J.A., 1959. Report on fish marketing in Uganda. Rome: FAO (mimeo)
Dhatemwa, C.M. (Senior Fisheries Officer, UFD), 1990. Personal Communication.
Dunn, I.G. 1989. Fisheries management study in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Mission report for EEC Project No. 4100.037.42.44, Conservation of Natural Resources. Rome, AGRICONSULTING: 35 p.
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Fig. 1. Uganda - Major Fisheries
Fig. 2. Total annual catches Uganda, L. Kyoga and L. Victoria (tons)
Estimated quantity of fish landed by Lake Regions in Uganda waters 1961–1989 (in 1 000 t)
Source: Uganda Fisheries Department records
Evolution of the catch (in tons) for Lake Victoria (Uganda), 1965–88.
|1965||3||20 985||1 035||688||544||628||2||499||24 384|
|1966||6||20 610||2 739||597||967||1 731||851||6||513||28 020|
|1967||2||14 883||10 552||1 028||4 286||2 742||243||3 058||440||407||457||82||38 180|
|1968||3||6 378||6 071||1 140||15 612||3 618||19||7 594||74||40 509|
|1969||600||19 844||7 930||1 725||5 974||5 233||511||2 288||142||204||1 709||113||46 273|
|1970||620||17 760||11 140||430||6 990||3 310||220||1 100||160||41 730|
|1971||728||14 190||11 268||536||6 186||3 345||400||1 050||1||105||1 000||38 809|
|1972||840||10 080||11 020||601||5 836||3 323||558||1 866||188||986||3||35 301|
|1973||975||7 490||10 368||540||6 500||3 110||475||1 845||248||950||32 501|
|1974||1 086||6 465||8 987||590||3 306||2 757||180||1 780||85||250||15||25 501|
|1975||254||7 000||2 930||260||195||1 290||70||1 690||10||40||10||13 745|
|1976||540||1 850||4 380||130||1 800||1 320||40||1 000||10||20||10||11 100|
|1977||460||3 110||4 910||530||2 270||1 920||570||1 560||30||240||15 600|
|1978||460||3 110||4 900||530||2 300||1 900||540||1 560||30||240||15 570|
|1979||190||1 650||6 530||360||1 370||2 330||2 540||1 550||40||130||70||16 760|
|1980||129||2 382||3 845||62||365||2 376||735||93||92||9 999|
|1981||785||6 170||3 877||61||2 795||2 310||843||87||72||17 000|
|1982||1 947||460||3 907||5 458||265||890||73||13 000|
|1983||13 980||382||2 141||58||51||181||110||61||40||17 004|
|1984||23 927||2 279||17 633||58||108||237||521||29||44 792|
|1985||37 386||1 268||15 017||10||71||573||223||5||25||54 578|
|1986||41 000||5 750||9 288||104||263||125||298||56 828|
|1987||76 617||5 794||7 058||66||354||1 185||55||5||2||13||2 001||14||93 164|
|1988||92 031||11 570||206||30||315||429||6||416||3||22||2 033||30||107 091|
Source: Uganda Fisheries Department records