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Reducing Post-Harvest Losses and Ensuring Food Safety in Small - scale Fisheries Through the FAO-Thioarye Smoking Technology, FTT.

Participants at the recent training on the FTT

The issues of Post-Harvest Losses, PHLs in the Small-scale Fisheries Sector continues to be a source of worry, having devastating impacts on the incomes of coastal inhabitants, mostly women.

The fisheries sector in Ghana, mainly dominated by small-scale fisheries is an emerging sector with significant contribution to food security and poverty alleviation. Although this sector is providing employment to about 10 % of coastal inhabitants (Ghana Statistical Service 2014), it is faced with overfishing g (leading to decline in stocks) and high post-harvest losses (from poor processing technologies and improper fish handling).

Smoked fish is arguably the major source of animal protein in the Ghanaian diet. However, traditional methods employed in processing, handing and storage most often leads to high fish losses. The use of dried wood as fuel in traditional processing with its resultant high smoke production leads to high release of the chemical Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. These compounds are strictly regulated in smoked products on the international market in order to protect public health. 

 Addressing the Challenge

To address the major concerns of PAHs’ in smoked fish, handling and storage to ensure food safety and consumer health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (FAO) in collaboration with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, launched an improved fish smoking technology, known as the FAO-Thioraye Processing Technology, FTT in Ghana in December 2014.

 About the FAO-Thioarye Smoking Technology, FTT

The FTT is an advanced processing technology designed from the strengths and weaknesses of the existing improved traditional smoking kilns; Chorkor and Banda. It has additional accessories / devices that can easily be installed on these kilns to improve fish smoking. The FTT was principally designed to reduce PAH levels in smoked fish to ensure product safety in line with guidelines provided by the Codex Alimentarius Commission owing to its reliance on alternative fuel use. The provision of a hot air distributor, which also doubles as a storage facility helps in storage of products for longer periods and from animal predation and insect infestation.

According to FAO’s report on “Strategy for Sustainable and Competitive Fisheries and Aquaculture Post-harvest Chains and Regional Trade in Riparian Countries of the Volta basin”, poor handling and poor smoking technologies leads to significant amount of qualitative losses in fishery products. Therefore the development of adaptable and gender-sensitive technologies for handling, processing and storage of fish provided by the FTT will lead to higher and more sustainable yields with increased shelf life that will ensure local supply of high-quality smoked fish with reduced losses.

 Enhance gender equality in food systems

Thirty, (30) fish processors from Dzemeni in the Volta basin joined their colleague fish processors in Tema New Town in the Greater Accra Region who have been smoking with the FTT for export businesses on a learning exchange on the usage and maintenance of the FTT. The training was under the Swedish funded project “Support to Fisheries Value Chain in Dzemeni – “Enable women to benefit more equally from agri-food value chains” focusing on Fisheries value chain and Small Initiatives, making the latest training for beneficiaries since the introduction of the FTT technology. 

So far about 200 women fish processors from Greater Accra, Central, Volta and Western Regions have benefited from trainings on the usage and maintenance of the FAO-Thioraye processing Technology, the trainings, coupled with the provision of a fish processing facility to reduce post-harvest loss in small-scale fisheries, aimed at economically empowering these women to trigger multiplier effects on food security, safety, nutrition, education and health.

With Ghana experiencing, decline in fish catches in the last decade, the most logical means to increase fish supply, even without increased catches, is to reduce losses of what is caught. The substantial improvements offered by the newly developed FAO- Thiaroye smoking kiln will contribute significantly to reduce health hazards, boost consumer confidence in safe fishery products whilst safeguarding greater post-harvest benefits for the sector. The FTT should therefore be encouraged to be promoted on a wider scale.