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Technical Cooperation Programme

Supporting inland fisheries in Angola


Angola loses at least one-quarter of the fish caught in inland waters each year – largely due to lack of refrigeration, out-dated processing techniques and difficulties in getting the catch to the marketplace.

Some pilot assessments even put the figure as high as 40 percent. And these losses are putting a dent in the food security, nutrition and incomes of some of the country’s poorest and most remote communities.

With this in mind, the Government of Angola requested the technical assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to strengthen inland fisheries at all stages – from ‘boat to market’.

Strong commitment

Working closely with Angola’s Ministry of Fisheries and the local government in Kwanza Norte, FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project in 2013 in five small fishing communities in Lake N’golome – an area where poor infrastructure has cut off many people from basic services.

According to Maria Angelica Augusto, the TCP’s national project coordinator, it was one of the first projects to focus on the potential of Angola’s inland fisheries.

“Before, most were geared towards marine water fishing,” she said.

The Government, in a sign of its commitment to supporting small-scale fishing communities, invested USD 1.5 million of its own resources – nearly four times the TCP budget – for additional training, services and infrastructure through the TCP.

Technical know-how and post-harvest innovations

The lakes and ponds around Lake N’golome are filled with tilapia, catfish, mullet and other fish, providing an important source of protein and income for some 3,000 families.

But post-harvest losses along the value chain are high, representing “huge losses in food and income, but also a waste of natural resources,” said Yvette Diei Ouadi, an FAO fishery industry officer and the TCP’s lead technical officer.

Curbing those losses through technical know-how and innovation – from handling raw fish hygienically, to improving processing, to marketing safe and wholesome food – was at the heart of the project.

The TCP organized a study tour to Senegal for a small group of fish processors, mostly women, to learn about proper fish handling and how to make insulated storage containers using recycled materials.

They also learned simple, low-cost processing and packaging techniques to boost consumer appeal and market value.

Julietta Vegas, a 52-year-old fish processor, said they learned how to make “fish sausages and hamburgers and high-value smoked and fermented fish”.

“In leaving Senegal, we bought some small equipment ourselves for processing fish sausages and sealing the portions,” she added.

Once home, they trained 38 other fish processors. More efficient techniques, especially for smoking fish, also mean better working conditions – as in less drudgery and fewer respiratory health risks.

Sustainable practices

Fishing during the lean season, when fish are not fully mature or in the spawning period, is a problem in Angola’s inland lakes. So is blast fishing – an illegal fishing practice known locally as muduco – whereby fishers set off explosives underwater to catch as many fish as possible. Both harm fish habitats.

In Tanzania, fishing communities around Lake Victoria have had good success in preserving the lake’s natural resources. Four fishers and two local government extension workers travelled there to learn how to fish responsibly and sustainably, as part of a study tour funded by the Angolan Government.

This peer-to-peer learning is essential for changing attitudes and behaviour, Diei Ouadi said.

“They came back with a better understanding of how their wallets would be threatened if they continued to fish as they did,” she said, adding that they are now spreading the word among others in their communities to stop the destruction of fish ecosystems.

Matondo Kialango, a young fisher who took part in the study tour, likens illegal fishing to “eating the fruit and its seed, not thinking of what will happen tomorrow for the food of our children if we clear the lake today.”

“There is no excuse to use muduco and we are committed to enforcing its ban,” he said. “We also need to educate people using legal fishing gear to put unintentionally caught small fish back in the water.”

The TCP trained 50 fishers and fish processors in new trades – as carpenters, builders, electricians, blacksmiths, sewers and bakers – to discourage overfishing during the lean season and illegal fishing.

Positive developments

The TCP has triggered several positive developments in Lake N’golome.

The N’golome Centre for Training and Processing, set up by the TCP with the Ministry of Fisheries, is a state-of-the-art complex, complete with cold chain facilities, processing and training rooms, wifi and dormitories.

The Government has deemed the complex a national training centre. Beneficiary communities and Terra do Futuro, a private development organization, co-manage the complex – the latter having introduced new activities, such as fish farming.

Before the project, “these fishing communities had no support for training, capacity development, credit, fishing inputs,” Augusto said.

“They didn’t even have birth certificates for their children or identity cards for fishers,” she said, adding that the communities now have a vision for how they want to develop and diversify.

A USD 2 million project, designed by FAO and funded by the Government of Angola, the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, has been approved, aimed at scaling up TCP achievements in other inland fishing areas.

And the local government in Kwanza Norte has invested in an all-weather road from Lake N’golome to the town of Dondo.

A trip that once took a couple of hours – much longer when the road was muddy – now takes about half an hour, making it easier for fishers and processors to get to the main market.And for parents in Lake N’golome – where there is currently no primary school – to send their children to class.

FAO's TCP projects are targeted, short-term catalytic projects that leverage FAO's technical expertise to address specific problems in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural livelihoods among FAO Member countries, producing tangible and immediate results in a cost-effective manner.