The United Nations University Fisheries Training Programme returned to Kigoma, Tanzania this week to conduct a short course on improved fish smoking methodologies on Lake Tanganyika. The course was developed in cooperation with Matís and the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, and is part of a project awarded to Matís by the Nordic Climate Facility.
Over the past several years, Matís has been refining the design of an improved smoking kiln intended for use in rural communities in Africa. During that time, several fellows at the UNU-FTP in the Quality Management in Fish Handling and Processing line of specialization in the six month course have research the kiln's performance.
Traditional smoking methods are harmful for several reasons. There are health risks associated with producing and consuming traditionally smoked fish, and smoking methods currently used put extra strain on sensitive ecosystems. Traditionally, processors, typically women, stand over open fire for long periods, endangering their health. The smoked product is often charred, resulting in the formation of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which are carcinogenic compounds. This turns what should be a health food into a health hazard for consumers. In addition, smoking fish using the traditional methods uses excessive amounts of firewood, which is often gathered from sensitive areas.
The improved kiln has been shown to reduce firewood consumption by 80%. The system is enclosed, so processors face significantly less exposure to harmful smoke. The smoking process is also much faster than traditional methods and requires less physical labor, which frees up time for processors to engage in other activities. Research from UNU-FTP fellows has shown that the PAHs present on the final product from the traditional smoking methods are not present on the products from the improved kiln.
This week, the UNU-FTP is sponsoring a second short course at TARIFI in Kigoma to introduce the kilns to Fisheries Officers. The Fisheries Officers will learn about the operation of the kiln and the benefits of using it, and will then visit local communities where the kilns have been distributed to conduct workshops of their own encouraging the use of the improved technology. In addition to trainers from UNU-FTP and Matís, Eunice Asamoah, a UNU-FTP fellow from Ghana who graduated in 2017 and conducted research on the kiln, is assisting with delivery of the course. Eunice is currently pursuing her PhD, and hopes to introduce a similar method in her home country.