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New fish smoking ovens launched in Asia

The traditional method of fish-smoking in the small fishing community of Unnichchai, in eastern Sri Lanka sees women spending many hours tending to fish laid out on mesh over smoking coals. Health hazards from smoke inhalation are high, while the output from such intensive labour is often low.

Kopalapillai Theivarmallar using the traditional fish-smoking method in her village in Sri Lanka.

That is now changing with the introduction of new smoking ovens pioneered by FAO under a program funded by the European Union. In June this year, FAO with the European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) introduced the new smoking technology to Asia for the first time, starting with Sri Lanka where fish is a major source of livelihoods and nutrition.

“The first thing I noticed was that the new technology helps me save time,” said Kopalapillai Theivarmallar who makes her living from fish-smoking to provide for her three daughters. “Before, I spent a total of 12 hours on two consecutive days drying and smoking the fish, and I used the old method of iron mesh. Now, 6 to 7 hours is enough to finish one smoking. It gives me plenty of time to take care of my children and do household chores,” she said.

Since 2008 FAO has worked on developing the FTT-Thiaroye, an improved fish smoking and drying oven technology. The oven can be purpose built, or the smoke-capturing chimney, oil-catching trays and other elements can be added to an existing oven. It is designed to improve fuel-efficiency in fish-smoking by encapsulating heat and smoke. It also addresses health hazards suffered by small-scale fish dryers - the vast majority of whom are women.

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