4. DEMAND AND SUPPLY CONSTRAINTS AND THEIR RESOLUTION
Various factors constraining demand and supply have been alluded to in the course of the foregoing discussion. A more direct inventory of the principal areas of constraint is provided in this section along with some comments regarding the possibilities of overcoming them.
4.1 Constraints on Demand
It is reiterated that in the Uganda context fish demand constraints per se are primarily a function of cultural factors associated with distinct parts of the country. Factors such as the non-availability of preferred species or the quality and style of product presentation figure in a much more incidental way as demand constraints. Prices obviously condition consumer demand on a sliding scale depending upon income level, but not nearly to the extent that they do for meat or poultry products.
Those districts in the western part of the country occupied by the Bayankole, Batoro, and Banyoro ethnic groups, as well as Moroto and Kotido Districts in the northeast occupied by the Karimojong, do not have any traditions of fish-eating. In all these cases there is a strong heritage of pastoralism. To the extent that fish avoidance practices persist in the west, people continue to be deprived or to deprive themselves of high quality protein harvested from the nearby Great Rift lakes of Edward, George, and Albert, all of which host major fisheries. No such fisheries lie close to Karamoja.
If all of the people living in the west and northeast could be classified as non-eaters of fish, then this would involve, as a very rough estimate based on recent household survey data (MPED 1991b), no more than 25% of the national population. The actual percentage is probably substantially lower. Fish avoidance is not ubiquitous amongst the people living in or coming from any of the districts in question, and indeed is gradually declining in significance. A combination of factors have been contributing to this development.
During the years of war and civil unrest between 1979 and 1986 and even for sometime after there was a marked shortage of animal protein in the form of milk and meat. But fish continued to be available in considerable quantity and was widely used as an alterntive food by consumers of all ethnic backgrounds.
Rising cost-of-living pressures have also had an effect. Meat and chicken prices have climbed steadily and remain at relatively high levels, forcing people to look for cheaper food to fit their household budgets. Fish has been an attractive and popular option. According to recent Kampala Consumer Price Index figures, from January 1989 through September 1990 meat and poultry prices have increased by about 52%, compared to a figure of some 28% for fish (MPED 1990b).
Movement of people from rural to urban centres, travel and migration to and from various regions of the country, and intermarraiges between people of different ethnic backgrounds over the years have encouraged the adoption of new eating habits and a wider tolerance of fish consumption.
Formal education at all levels from primary through university has done much to alter the food preferences amongst the young over the last several decades. Students not only are taught about the nutritional value of fish but are often served with it at school meals. At educational institutions all over the country almost everyone eats fish as a matter of course, irrespective of their individual backgrounds.
Finally, the health authorities have enhanced the appreciation of fish consumption amongst the populace as a means to alleviate malnutrition especially in small children.
Much more could be done however to create awareness and stimulate demand for the use of fish as a regular part of the family diet in the western and northeastern regions. The mass media including radio, newspapers, and television could all be used more effectively in this regard. Outreach efforts by community health workers, the Home Economics Section of the Ministry of Agriculture, and especially by the Fisheries Department all stand in need of strengthening. Aside from local schools, hospitals, dispensaries, and family planning clinics, a good deal of promotional work could be carried out at neighbourhood fish markets. Fish retailers themselves could be mobilised to assist with these efforts.
4.2 Constraints on Supply
Fish supply is subject to heavy constraints, potential as well as actual, brought on by factors affecting both the production and distribution systems.
4.2.1 Constraints at the harvest and post-harvest production level
Although some estimates suggest that Uganda still has a way to go before attaining the potential annual yield level from its national fisheries, crucial stock assessment data are lacking for all of the major water bodies. This deficiency needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency. For Lake Victoria, long-overdue stock assessment will be undertaken as part of an EEC sponsored project to begin within another year or so, and some work is also in progress on Lake Kyoga under the auspices of the IFAD/World Bank Agricultural Development Project. As far as is known, nothing is definitely in the pipeline for any of the western lakes or the River Nile. Regardless of whether the national capture fisheries are approaching a state of full exploitation or can yet accomodate some further expansion, now is the time to begin planning for and promoting diversification within the harvest sector. The feasibility of tapping underexploited alternative aquatic resources must be explored. Where conditions warrant, strong encouragement should be given to the expansion of small-scale fish-farming and enhanced production systems like artificial reefs and pen culture.
As for the capture fisheries themselves, future performance will naturally still depend on adherence to principles of careful stewardship and on the maintenance of some measure of stability within aquatic environments. It should by no means be taken for granted that the current high yields from Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga can be sustained, or whether there will be continuity also in the important fisheries of the western great lakes. Environmental perturbations and haphazard policy-making and management practices for the fisheries sector can easily result in a vast reduction of productivity. And indeed there there are already reasons why responsible fisheries researchers, planners, administrators, and users in the country should be seriously concerned about issues of sustainability.
The colonisation of the Lake Kyoga complex by water hyacinth has already been alluded to. This invasion has in fact reached critical levels, to the point where extensive reaches of water are now no longer available as fishing grounds, and navigation is seriously impeded. Now the threat of water hyacinth has extended to Lake Victoria, where the weed has been increasingly noticed since early 1990 (Reynolds and Coenen 1991). The hazards posed by water hyacinth to aquatic ecosystems are well known (Gopal 1987), and it can only be hoped that the emergency assistance now being mobilised by FAO at the request of the Uganda Government for broad assessment of the problem and formulation of an intervention programme to deal with it will prove to be effective.
Mention has also already been made of destructive fishing practices and their inevitable consequences in the cases of Lakes Kyoga and Wamala. Tilapia stocks in Lake Wamala have never recovered from the time they collapsed in the mid-1970s due to overexploitation. The use of destructive practices seems to be growing in extent on Lake Victoria, where beach seines and cast nets, and small mesh size gill nets, though prohibited, are in fairly common use. “Active” gillnet fishing, wherein operators set nets and then beat the water with poles or clubs to scare the fish into them, is also readily observed. Indirect evidence of the widespread nature of illegal fishing can be seen in local rural market places, where large consignments of undersized Lates and Oreochromis are available for sale (Reynolds and Odongkara 1989). On western lakes too there is ample evidence of the use of illegal gear and methods, and in the controlled fisheries of Lakes Edward and George the existence of many more fishing units than is officially permitted (Dunn 1989; Reynolds 1990).
The recent licensing and commencement of mechanised pair trawling operations in the Uganda waters of Lake Victoria is another area that warrants critical attention. Their probable damaging impact on the artisanal canoe-based fishery and questionable socio-economic worth to one side, trawling operations represent another and potentially quite intense source of pressure on existing stocks of commercial table fish. In the context of an indeterminate but perhaps quite fragile resource base of such fish, an upwardly spiralling demand for them from both the local consumer population and the industrial plants processing for export, and the concomitant increase in effort by artisanal fishers who will be striving to service this demand, it seems prudent to rethink and recast policy with regard to trawling operations.
The implications of heightened industrial processing sector demand for table fish for local fishery interests have already been the subject of some commentary (Reynolds and Ssali 1990). Plant operators or at least their agents are now regular customers at several of the major landing points on Lake Victoria, and are bidding for fish right alongside of local processors and traders. Assuming a more or less constant level of production, this sort of competition is likely to drive ex-canoe prices for fish upwards. With their relatively limited amounts of operating capital, it seems certain that the local dealers would be the losers in such a game. Their progressive marginalisation, if it were to transpire, might initially take the form of a search for fish of poorer quality and less market value, and/or for undersized fish. If the latter, then further fishing down of the stocks by operators using small-mesh nets and other destructive practices could be expected to ensue. As elsewhere observed, local consumers around the country are the ones who ultimately would have to cope with the consequences of such developments.
Higher prices and decreased supplies…would of course make their effects felt at the domestic retail market level. Fish currently represents the cheapest form of animal protein in Uganda, and consumers could find this attractive price level quickly disappearing in the face of heightened demand from processing plants looking to supply profitable international markets [ibid:22].
The experience of the rapid expansion of the number of processing plants to exploit the Nile perch of the Kenya sector of Lake Victoria should not be forgotten when it comes to assessing current developments in Uganda. In fact the developments in Kenya have a direct bearing on the situation in Uganda. Kenya now has a serious over-capacity problem with regard to these plants. That country's portion of Lake Victoria waters is relatively tiny, being only 6% as against Uganda's 45% and Tanzania's 49% With the Kenya waters already heavily exploited and even over-exploited (Reynolds and Greboval 1988), and with the great and ever-growing appetite for raw product of Kenyan-based processing plants and domestic consumers, it is little wonder that substantial quantities of fresh fish caught in the Uganda side of the Lake are making their way informally across the border by boat and into the Kenya collection and processing network. Smuggling, of real and immediate as distinct from potential significance, is thus another major constraint on supply for private and commercial consumers in Uganda.
There appears to be no ready answer to the problem. The established Kenya-based concerns are in a position to offer better ex-canoe prices for fish than are the newly established ones in Uganda, and they also provide other inducements like outboard fuel on credit. But higher prices are not the only driving force behind this trafficking. Since fish only have to be transported one way, the return trip offers attractive possibilities for backloads of contraband -- duty-free fishing gear and consumer goods of all sorts.
It is easy to suggest that the customs and security forces should take a stronger line in the surveillance and control of fish smuggling to Kenya. But this would prove an exceedingly expensive exercise, requiring a quite substantial staff establishment equipped with a fleet of patrol boats for effective coverage of the broad expanses of water, inter-island channels, and indented shorelines across, through, and along which smuggling operations take place. It would furthermore be tantamount to treating the symptom rather than the causes of the trafficking. Higher prices for fish on the Kenya side and the attraction of backloads of contraband goods (fish only being transported in one direction) are the driving forces behind it all. Perhaps some form of closer surveillance and enforcement will have to be mounted in conjunction with other measures like restrictions on very large transport canoes and outboard engines, stricter licensing and identification requirements for fishing units and other smallcraft, and some liberalisation of import regulations in connection with popular low-cost consumer items from Kenya. Another idea for possible consideration is the creation of exclusive fishing zones in the waters adjacent to the border, their use being reserved for the two sets of pair trawlers currently based at Entebbe. Whilst this would no doubt bring its share of controversy and protest, it would also ensure that Uganda fish stocks in the open waters close to the Kenya border would be harvested for use by Ugandan industry and domestic consumers.
Whilst on the subject of smuggling, it might be noted that in the west, where a good deal of informal trade also takes place across the border into Zaire, the situation does not have such a serious impact on domestic supply requirements at this time. There is not not an adequate local market for fish in the districts bordering the western lakes, and poor transportation infrastructure makes it virtually impossible to transfer the catches to eastern Ugandan markets.
The general deterioration in Uganda's infrastructure within the last two decades in combination with vastly increased catch levels in recent years has greatly encouraged the fish processing in one form or another at local landings. In places where road or water access is extremely difficult and unreliable, such as on some of the more remote stretches of shoreline and the numerous islands of Lake Victoria and the Lake Kyoga complex, and at many of the landings on Lakes Edward, George, and Albert, practically all of the catch ends up being processed. Hot-smoking traditionally has been and continues to be the most popular form of processing, though frying of fish chunks has become quite common in certain localities. Various attempts have been made over the years by the UFD to encourage the use of more fuel efficient kilns and more evenly controlled methods of smoke curing by local processors, with only moderate success. Considerable spoilage of locally processed fish occurs due to inadequate and uneven smoke-drying. During rainy periods, spoilage loss for both sun-dried and smoked products due to excessive dampness can reach extremely high levels -- over 50% of harvested quantity in the case of sun-dried Rastrineobola. (FISHIN Project field observations 1989–90; Reynolds and Ssali 1990).
Extremely poor treatment of both fresh and cured fish by harvesters and processors results in deterioration and some loss of value in products before they ever leave the landing site and enter the distribution network. Practices include: rough handling of catches initially as they are removed from the nets and thrown into the bottom of canoes and later as they are off-loaded from canoes and transferred to pickups; superficial washing and gutting of fish in highly unsanitary conditions; and packing of consignments in such a way that fish are subjected to crushing, bruising, and breaking. There is great scope here for technical extension and community development efforts aimed at improving landing site infrastructure and fish handling practices. This in turn assumes a far more effective and responsible system revenue collection and administration on the part of local government councils than now exists in most places. Local authorities have a reputation for being very eager to levy taxes and cesses. But these same authorities are also well known for neglecting to use the resulting revenue to maintain the very facilities that occasion their collection, far less for developing them.
4.2.2 Constraints at the distribution level
The single greatest obstacle to the wider domestic distribution and therefore availability of fish now being harvested and landed within Uganda is the extremely deficient state of the transportation infrastructure, including the feeder and trunk road network, the railway system, and ferry and lake steamer services. This deficiency poses serious constraints on supplies of both cured and fresh fish. But it is terms of the latter that the public feels the pinch most sorely, since consumers would generally prefer fresh fish to cured, given a choice. Government with the assistance of various international agencies has since 1987 undertaken an ambitious programme of road repair, and the rehabilitation of highway routes linking the major urban centres of the Lake Victoria Crescent and southwest and western Uganda is progressing rapidly. Work on feeder roads is also underway, but in general has not progressed so far. These links are particularly vital to the distribution system because it is through them that most fish are or could be evacuated from landings and transported inland to rural and urban assembly points and marketplaces. Rail and steamer services could also serve a much more effective role in fish distribution, just as they did in the past, but their rehabilitation will likely be a more gradual process.
Faulty fish handling practices along the distribution routes compound those that have already occurred at the landings, resulting in further loss from breakage and spoilage to fresh and cured products before they can reach the consumer. Loads of fish in the back of pick-ups often serve as a platform for other heavy cargo and passengers to rest upon. Dried and especially smoked pieces of table fish are frequently packed in large open-weave baskets which offer no protection from dust, rain, or insect infestation, and which weigh so much (100 kgs and more) that their contents tend to get crushed and fragmented. The conditions under which fish are kept and offered for sale at final market points for the most part merely extend this pattern of indelicate handling that began at the landing site. Whilst improvements in handling need to be made throughout the distribution network, they would be to little avail unless a start was first made at the landing site level. Product damage inflicted during handling at that early stage is impossible to rectify at any later stage.
Major market centres for the most part lack adequate receiving and bulk storage facilities for either fresh or cured fish, a situation which impedes the development of a true wholesaling sector within the marketing system. Bulk assembly, transport, and storage/distribution of fish could effectively be managed by relatively small numbers of dealers in the chief fisheries regions if they operated on a sufficiently large scale and restricted their activities only to these functions. The likely gains to be realised from this clearer separation of wholesale and retail trade include cheaper and steadier supplies of fish to principal nodal points in the distribution system and better opportunities for fish to penetrate into retail outlets further afield. But for such arrangements to evolve requires joint action by the local authorities responsible for market administration and development on the one hand, and the traders who would run wholesale operations on the other. It is possible that the traders themselves could better look after their interests through the formation of a wholesalers' association.
5. PROPOSALS FOR DEVELOPMENT ACTION
Discussion in previous sections has dealt with the context and characteristics of fish marketing and consumption in Uganda. An inventory was also drawn up of principal constraints that are affecting demand and supply patterns at present or have some likelihood of doing so in the near- to medium-term future. Further general remarks were made about how such constraints might be overcome, recognising that some are far more intractable than others.
It was noted that a fully urgent need exists to deal with the menace posed by water hyacinth in the waters of the River Nile system -- Lakes Victoria and Kyoga and the Albert Nile. Stock assessment work likewise needs to be undertaken as a matter of priority in all the major water bodies of the country so as to provide a solid basis for future management of the fisheries sector on a sustained basis. Nothing further will be said about either of these two problem areas however, since: (a) at least a start has been made on efforts to deal with them -- by FAO for the water hyacinth and by the EEC and the Agricultural Development Project for stock assessment in Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga, respectively; and (b) in any event, as matters for biological research, they lie somewhat outside the scope of the present paper.
Discussion in this final section focusses instead on project possibilities for dealing with the other constraints noted in relation to certain places and stages in the national fish utilisation system. Actions are outlined which, if followed up, might considerably enhance the role of fish products in promoting nutritional welfare countrywide. Suggestions are also made as to suitable agencies, national and international, governmental and non-governmental, that could serve as channels for project undertakings. In most cases it would be appropriate to have the FAO serve as executing agency, given the experience and skills it can draw upon through its Fisheries Department. Where issues of children's nutritional welfare stand particularly to the fore, UNICEF and/or WFP involvement could be enlisted. In terms of funding sources, as always the sticking point, it can only be suggested that consultations be held with those countries and agencies that recognise the critical importance of the fisheries and have either assisted similar sectoral development work in Uganda or other African countries in the past or may have some interest in doing so in future. The list would include, amongst others, the EEC, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, the World Bank, and USAID. In cases where more modest levels of funding are required, or where projects could be divided into component parts, it is possible that certain NGOs like OXFAM, Euro-Action Acord, and CARE would be interested in supporting fisheries development activities.
5.1 National Fisheries Policy and Planning
It is imperative that a comprehensive statement of policy covering the future development of the national fisheries be elaborated, with particular regard to the respective roles to be played by the small-scale artisanal sector and the large-scale commercial sector in fish harvesting, processing, and marketing. Current policy statements (see Reynolds 1989 for an overview) are rather vague on specifics, and leave the impression that Government wants to encourage the interests of both sectors without really coming to grips with the competitive relations and inconsistencies that are involved.
It is to be hoped that a policy of trawling prohibition in those inshore areas normally frequented by artisanal canoe fishing operators will be adopted without delay, and provided with the institutional backing in terms of enforcement.
Equally it is to be hoped that Government authorities will move to establish a policy strictly limiting the further development of commercial fish processing firms, as a situation of over-capacity already threatens and the ability of the standing stocks in Lake Victoria and elsewhere to withstand additional fishing pressure is problematical.
A wide range of other issues warrant urgent attention by policy analysts and planning personnel. For example, a comrehensive review needs to be carried out of existing management structures and enforcement procedures for the major fisheries; novel and more effective systems of revenue generation for the support of fisheries research, extension, and administrative services, and for the development and maintenance of local landing sites and markets, need to be elaborated and put to practical test; innovative approaches such as the designation of controlled fishing zones as exclusive breeding and conservation areas, special use commercial areas, and community-controlled territorial-use-right-for-fishing (TURF) areas should be considered and tried; and regulations pertaining to gear types and mesh sizes within the various fisheries must be thoroughly reviewed and overhauled.
An FAO mission operating in conjunction with appropriate national fisheries interests could be assigned the task of drafting a broad-ranging but detailed statement of national fisheries policy and a strategy for its implementation, including a draft version of the legal instruments, new or amended, that such a strategy would entail.
5.2 Improved Monitoring and Reporting
There is a dearth of good statistical information on nearly all aspects of fish utilisation in Uganda. This makes it difficult to characterise existing patterns and to formulate ways and means for improving the situation except in rather broad outline form. A first requirement is therefore to improve monitoring and reporting procedures with regard to the distribution, marketing, and consumption of fish.
Major weaknesses within current statistics procedures have already been reviewed by the FISHIN Project team (Reynolds, Wadanya, and Nyeko 1989). In terms of the post-harvest aspects of the industry, routines of statistical coverage around the country are not standardised and there is wide variation in the quality of data that is produced. In places fish marketing activities are not monitored at all. This is especially the case for minor rural markets, markets in more remote sections of the country, and areas of continued insecurity and military operations.
Whilst FISHIN Project personnel have worked to upgrade the information base through survey work and by designing and implementing improved routines of statistics collection, much remains to be done. One area in particular that has not received adequate attention as yet is that of consumer dietary habits. Nutrition surveys are needed in all districts of the country in order to provide detailed information on the variety, quantity, and quality of food that people are eating. Existing studies are either somewhat dated (MPED 1968; MISR 1972) or of limited geographical coverage (as cited in UNICEF 1989). What is needed now is a year-long investigation into national food consumption patterns, organised along the lines of previous surveys, and implemented through, for example, the Nutrition Unit of the Institute of Public Health (Makerere University Medical School), the Makerere Institute of Social Research, the Department of Food Science and Technology of Makerere, or appropriate departments in the Ministries of Health (Nutrition Unit), Animal Industry and Fisheries, or Agriculture (Home Economics Section). The survey task force could utilise the food expenditure data generated by the recently completed household expenditure survey (MPED 1991b) in addition to gathering detailed information directly through fieldwork. Survey results would prove most useful to the task of defining a national nutrition policy and strategy, a chief concern of the Food and Nutrition Council, the multi-sectoral standing body under the Ministry of Agriculture.
5.3 Fisheries Production Restoration and Development
5.3.1 Restoration of Lake Wamala fisheries
Lake Wamala was a major supplier of fish, especially tilapia, to the Kampala markets during the 1960s and early 1970s. Its output has since collapsed due to heavy fishing pressure caused by uncontrolled entry and use of small-mesh nets. A year-long project is required to restore the fishery to its former status. This could be done through a programme of initial closure for re-stocking and growing-out, followed by the re-opening of the fishery under a new management regime, perhaps based on community controlled TURFs in combination with strict limitations on the number of fishing units permitted to operate within each TURF area and the permanent or seasonal closure of designated breeding/conservation areas. The possibility of pen-rearing and other enhanced production methods might also be considered for this shallow lake.
5.3.2 Restoration of small-scale fish farming
During the 1950s and 1960s good progress was made towards the development of small-scale fish farming in certain parts of the country, including Kabale and Rukungiri Districts in the southwest, Mbale, Kumi, Soroti, Lira, and Apach Districts in the east-central zone, and Kitgum and Gulu Districts in the north (Balarin 1985). This network of fish ponds was supported by several breeding and fry centres located around the country. The programme sought to provide steady supplies of fresh fish for subsistence and income generation purpose in places where they were not otherwise available. Unfortunately the entire exercise became yet another victim of the disruption and strife of the 1970s and 1980s. Breeding stations, fry centres, and the fish farm extension staff have all become more or less inactive, and the number of productive ponds has dwindled to a handful. In Kabale/Rukungiri, for example, where over 700 ponds were in production in the 1960s, there are now less than 100 that are still serviceable, and only a few that are still in production (Reynolds 1991).
Now that the political situation within the country has stabilised and Government has committed itself to a wide-ranging programme of national rehabilitation, it is appropriate to begin efforts to restore the role of fish farming as a source of employment and nutritional well-being. The rationale underlying original efforts to promote fish farming is today all the more compelling: population pressures have increased, alternative employment possibilities remain limited, and in many instances access to supplies of any sort of fish, fresh or processed, has become even more difficult. Fish farming is an appealing development option for other reasons as well. It requires relatively small capital input and short start-up times before reaching a point at which it can be managed on a self-sustaining basis. Also, in many places in Uganda it is not associated with tranditonal gender divisions of labour. Husbands and wives can thus assume joint responsibility in the running of the enterprise.
Restoration efforts could begin on a pilot/demonstration basis at two or three sites around the country -- perhaps one each in Kabale/Rukungiri, Mbale, and Gulu/Kitgum. The emphasis throughout the pilot projects would be on local community participation and initiative, building upon the positive experiences witnessed in the earlier fish pond programme. Regional Fisheries Department and project management staff would serve primarily a catalytic role, providing limited start-up funds, necessary gear and materials, and field extension support. Participating farm families would be encouraged to join together in self-governing co-operative groups. Each group would operate a central store of tools and gear to be lent out on a rotational basis for member families to carry out restoration and maintenance activity. The groups could also operate a simple revolving credit-in-kind scheme to provide members with basic start-up requirements.
5.3.3 Development of enhanced production systems
A further area for development is that of enhanced production systems through the use of artificial reefs and pen and cage culture (cf. Marriot et al. 1988). These systems have never been elaborated in Uganda but the potential for their successful application seems high. Trial and demonstration units could be started at selected places chosen from the numerous suitable sites available within the Lake Kyoga complex, on Lake Wamala, or from amongst the minor lakes of the southwest.
5.3.4 Development of the Lake Victoria Rastrineobola fishery and utilisation of other small-sized fishes
A major but extremely underutilised resource in the Uganda sector of Lake Victoria is the small pelagic cyprinid Rastrineobola argentea or mukene. The night-time lamp fishery for this species is very active in the other riparian states of Kenya and Tanzania, where the fish have a ready market as a human food and to some extent in the livestock feed industry. In Uganda mukene is an important component of the long-distance trade in fish from the central region to the northeast, and into Zaire and Kenya; it has a growing market especially amongst low-income consumers in the Lake Victoria Crescent; and it is great demand by the livestock feed millers. As for other small-sized fish, limited development of the Haplochromis fishery in some of the lakes lying along the margins of Lake Victoria, and in Victoria itself, should be explored as a possibility to support expansion of the market for fish powder-based meals as dietary supplements for small children.
FAO assistance could be sought to formulate and implement a project for the development of the mukene fishery through a scheme of technology transfer/adaptation, testing, and demonstration. Product and market development for mukene and other small-sized species would also be a concern of the proposed project, and could be carried out in conjunction with the UFD Fish Technology Laboratory at Entebbe.
5.4 Integrated Development of the Fisheries Post-Harvest Sector
5.4.1 Transportation infrastructure
The severely deteriorated state of infrastructural facilities upon which the fisheries industry depends is but one manifestation of the crippled state of the economy that resulted from the long period of civil strife during the 1970s and 1980s. Many if not most rural landing places are served by feeder roads that are in extremely poor condition and often impassible during the rains. Major trunk roads have also been badly neglected, and rail and waterborne transport services likewise have suffered. All this has had a most detrimental effect on a rapidly growing industry. The situation has been steadily improving over the last couple of years but a vast amount of restoration work remains to be done. At all times the road conditions and poor transport links in general contribute to product wastage and limit the distribution of fresh fish. Bad roads increase the marketing margins as transporters/wholesalers recover the high cost of vehicle maintenance from consumers. Although most road works and rail and steamer system rehabilitation must be planned and financed at the macro-level, the possibility of effecting improvements in landing site feeder road connections and small-scale waterborne transport services through community level actions should be considered.
5.4.2 Landing sites, markets, and the organisation of trade
Whilst improvements in transport links would do much to ameliorate the situation, other impediments to effective distribution of fish products also need to be attacked through project action at the community level. In terms of marketing organisation, a true wholesaling sector needs to be created so that both fresh and processed fish can reach a wider range of consumers at reasonable prices.
Improved physical facilities and handling practices are also long overdue. As earlier indicated, most landing and trading places, whether old and formally established or new and informal, feature very rudimentary facilities. Unhygenic handling practices are the rule rather than the exception. Cemented and roofed receiving stations and clean water supplies are rare. Washing and gutting slabs or sheds are generally lacking, as are adequate drying racks, salting vats, and fish stores. Smoking kilns are generally of poor design, resulting in imperfect curing and highly inefficient use of fuelwood, supplies of which are dwindling to critical levels in some areas. At all points along the chain of distribution, fish products are exposed to rough treatment, with little or no provision being made to protect them from contamination or insect infestation.
5.4.3 UFD Fish Technology Division
Quality control for the fisheries of Uganda is the primary responsibility of the Fish Technology Division of the UFD. The Division operates the Fish Technology Laboratory at Entebbe, where the aim is to conduct research on improved methods of handling, processing, and marketing of fish and promoting the optimal utilisation of fish resources through product development. In addition, the Laboratory is supposed to serve an extension role with regard to the dissemination of information on research results and the general education of the public on matters relating to fish handling and utilisation. Since its inception in the early 1970s, the Laboratory has never been in a position to adequately fulfill its remit due to the lack of essential facilities and adequately trained personnel.
5.4.4 Integrated development of the post-harvest sector: a pilot scheme
Because problems in the post-harvest sector are multiple but interrelated, an “integrated” project strategy is called for. Basically this involves an assembly of activity components designed to address specific tasks, problem areas, or points of need. These components are co-ordinated through various phases and levels to achieve an overall objective or set of related objectives. In the Uganda context, integrated fisheries post-harvest sector project work could be undertaken on a pilot/demonstration basis in selected landing communities and local markets, with technical and extension service backstopping being organised through the Fish Technology Division and Laboratory. The design and implementation of such project work could build upon some of the experiences derived from the CICS and UFEL schemes (Section 2.4).
Infrastructural services in the country are gradually improving but are still rather weak. This circumstance, coupled with the fact that machinery procurement and maintenance can be quite difficult, and the fact that consumer purchasing power is rather limited, needs to be borne in mind by fisheries development planners. It is suggested that major undertakings aimed at reducing post-harvest losses and increasing the range of domestic fish distribution through technologically complex and capital-intensive means -- cold storage, ice plants, the use of refrigerated lorries, and the like -- should not be unduly stressed at this stage. As an alternative, more scope should be given to less ambitious changes in technology and infrastructure which can yet have significant positive impact on product handling, processing, and marketing activities, providing they are correctly identified and implemented as much as possible through a participatory approach.
The identification and testing of innovative measures to improve performance in the post-harvest sector could be carried out simultaneously and interactively at the Fish Technology Laboratory and selected landing sites and markets throughout the country. Strong socio-economic inputs are also required. A crucially important component of project activity would be the design and testing of innovative approaches to revenue collection for the funding of infrastructural improvements and facility maintenance, and possibly technical support services from UFD personnel. Much will depend also on the effective mobilisation of local dedication and skills in promoting community self-management of feeder road and other on-shore facility development. The commitment of traders to work through wholesale and retail business associations for improved marketing organisation must also be secured.
Improvements in the national fish technology service and in the processing-distribution-marketing chain for fish products to be carried out under this project would significantly augment the contribution of the fisheries industry to Uganda's domestic food supply and forex earning capacity. Additional advantages would accrue from the project in terms of higher income levels and standards of living amongst fisherfolk communities. The women of such communities would particularly benefit because of the important roles they play in the fisheries post-harvest sector as processors and traders.
5.5 Development of Consumer Demand
There is a need to promote the wider use of fish products in the diets of people dwelling in the northeastern corner of the country, as well as in parts of the west. In all of these areas there are traditions of fish avoidance, yet at the same time there exist problems of malnutrition, sometimes acute, that should be ameliorated. It was noted earlier on that these days the practice of fish avoidance is diminishing as the result of various factors. But educational and promotional work could be intensified in an effort to hasten this process. It could be organised on a fairly modest scale without heavy funding requirements. Maximum contact between extension workers in Fisheries, Health, and Agriculture (Home Economics) would be the key to success for any consumer demand development programme. This could be most efficiently secured through a concentration on institutional and public contexts of interaction, such as schools, clinics, marketplaces, and the like. Distribution of sample products in order both to gauge and cultivate consumer acceptance, and the use of fish products in food-for-work schemes such as those sponsored by the WFP, might be considered as well. Both UNICEF and WFP involvement could be sought to help with such tactics.
FAO is currently engaged in a nutrition education project through the Department of Food Science and Technology at Makerere University, with the aim of developing a training syllabus for teaching institutions of all descriptions, from primary to university and technical school level. Obviously it would be desirable to co-ordinate product promotional efforts with this ongoing project.
The development of a market for fish powder, as distinct from fish itself, is a task that should be undertaken throughout Uganda as a whole. The idea of introducing or expanding the use of Rastrineobola and haplochromines as a protein base in infant weaning foods, mentioned several times at various points in previous discussion, has just been referred to again in connection with the proposal to encourage more effective utilisation of small-sized species. Linkage between the latter and a promotional programme to upgrade diets through greater consumption of fish products could yield substantial benefits in terms of national nutrition welfare.
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