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FAO in Rwanda

Improving fish post-harvest handling and value addition in Rwanda

Its 5am. Mukamana Beatrice’s day has began; she rushes to the shore of Lake Kivu in Karongi District to buy fish from Kibuye Fishing project that is supplied by the boats. Fish has been shown to be a highly nutritious food. She buys the small-sized sardines and Lamprichthys tanganicanus, locally known as “Rwanda rushya”. Beatrice is a fish processor in Bwishyura sector. Upon getting them home she washes and dries the fish after adding salt. She will later fry these.   

Beatrice is one of the members of the Benimpuhwe fish processors’ cooperative. Her customers range from wholesalers from the capital, Kigali, to local people, some of whom have malnourished children.

Rwanda’s fishery sector is not a significant contributor to the country’s GDP – at just 0.5% in 2016 (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2016). The National fish production is estimated at 28,450 tones currently, below the target of 112,000 tones in 2017. A significant proportion of the fish produced is also lost to spoilage due to poor post-harvest handling practices.

To improve food security in Rwanda and Eastern Africa, through increasing the availability of fish, FAO has conducted a series of practical training workshops to build capacity in fish handling and hygiene. The trainings have also emphasized value addition to improve local livelihoods, and to reduce the incidence of health problems from the consumption of unwholesome fish.

Beatrice, although passionate about her occupation, had limited knowledge as far as adding value to the fish is concerned. She however benefited from FAO’s training on fish post-harvest handling and value addition conducted from July 10 to 14, with practical lessons at Kibuye Fisheries Project Center at Karongi. Along with 34 other participants from Rwanda and Ethiopia, she was taken through a hands-on training, which included modules on aquaculture hygiene, various processing methods, and handling of specific fish species.

Before this training, Beatrice had a number of challenges due to her inadequate knowledge on fish post processing and value addition. However, with the new techniques acquired from the FAO training, it is her belief that her clientele base will grow.

“I used to add a lot of salt to the fish; I have now learnt how to determine the right ratio of salt to water to use before drying and frying. I am also now aware of cutting down on salt based on the specific needs of my customers. For example, I can now even supply to hypertensive and diabetic people, who can only consume limited amounts of salt.

Now that she has acquired practical knowledge and skills in fish post-harvest handling and value addition, the sky is the limit for her business.

“My dream of operating my own fish processing company has been revived. I have been exposed to the right packaging of fish. With the knowledge from this training, I can obtain my operating license from the Rwanda Bureaus of Standards. I was reluctant to go for the licensing exam because I didn’t have all this information. I can now confidently conduct professional fish processing.”

Beatrice intends to expand her business to include exportation of value-added fish. She also hopes to go into commercial fish farming in order to take advantage of the high demand for fish. Ends