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Study paves way for more robust sardine, sprat and perch fisheries on Lake Tanganyika

FISH4ACP value chain assessment aims to help the United Republic of Tanzania safeguard the sardine, sprat and perch fisheries on Lake Tanganyika, and enhance the incomes of its stakeholders

25 August 2021, Kigoma – A two-day validation workshop was organized to present the results of a value chain analysis of Lake Tanganyika sardine, sprat and perch fisheries to stakeholders from the private and public sector, including the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in the United Republic of Tanzania. Based on the analysis, workshop participants discussed how to best prioritize FISH4ACP interventions, such as improving fishing and processing methods and supporting cash-generating activities, to increase the incomes of fishery-dependent populations – fishers, processors, and traders.

The United Republic of Tanzania is the leading producer of sardines, sprat and perch in Lake Tanganyika. The small pelagics sector employs 27 000 fishermen and 11 000 processors, the majority of whom use artisanal methods. At present, ninety percent of the fish caught by artisanal fishers on Lake Tanganyika is sold to local artisanal processors, who smoke the perch or sun dry the sprat and sardines (dagaa). The remainder is purchased by wholesalers, exporters and retailers.

 “The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has been at the forefront of developing the fishing industry in the country through various policies, strategies, legislations and programs, including the recent 2020 amendment of regulations and fees,” said Dr Nazael Madalla, Director of Aquaculture, who represented the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries at the workshop.   

Given that sprat and sardine from Lake Tanganyika are small, they deteriorate quickly and are usually dried as soon as possible after landing. As a result, fresh sardines and sprats are scarce. The supply of sardine, sprat and perch is unstable throughout the year, particularly in areas far from Lake Tanganyika, limiting consumers' access to these products.

“Whatever we do, be it research or outreach, we involve the fishers every step of the way,” said Ismael Aaron Kimirei, Director of the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI). “We have supported fishers with energy-efficient smoking kilns to process sardine and perch, particularly during the rainy season when post-harvest losses are higher. We have also been educating them on the use of ice on the lake and at the landing site during fish handling to reduce wastage,” Kimirei said.

Nevertheless, fishery-dependent populations in the United Republic of Tanzania face a number of challenges, for example, women's involvement in and benefits from the fisheries value chain are lower than men's. The value chain analysis show that workers are placed in vulnerable situations and face job security and safety risks because there are no formal contracts and no occupational health and safety standards. Due to a lack of access to, and availability of financial institutions, as well as high interest rates and complicated lending procedures, access to formal loans is difficult.

In addition, post-harvest losses are high due to poor processing and handling methods, and yields are declining because of poor fishing methods, illegal fishing, and climate change. The use of fossil fuels (diesel and gasoline) and reliance on wood for fish smoking result in increased greenhouse gas emissions throughout the value chain.

The workshop, organized by FISH4ACP in collaboration with TAFIRI, served as a platform to discuss, validate and receive feedback on the value chain analysis and initiate the development of a shared strategy for the Lake Tanganyika fisheries. Potential activities were identified to protect and strengthen the value chain by investing in inclusive growth to increase food security for future generations, reduce poverty, and contribute to the conservation of natural resources.

“We are now at a crucial cross-road where all of you can lead us on the path with the greatest potential to benefit your communities and growth in the fisheries sector,” said Steven Ciocca, FISH4ACP Programme Officer based in Rome. “What we have now is not a finalized vision for the value chain, but this meeting was key to laying out a sound basis for the development of such a vision,” he said.

FISH4ACP is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) aimed at making fisheries and aquaculture value chains in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific more sustainable. FISH4ACP is implemented by FAO and partners with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)