- The traditional method has been drying the fish on bare sand which the scientists are discouraging because it gets contaminated with micro - organisms and encroachment from animals and chicken
- The racks are wrapped with black polyphone mesh and this provides easy air circulation and a good sunlight heat for quality drying taking 2 days
Uganda is richly endowed with natural water bodies and fisheries play an important role as a basis for subsistence and commercial livelihood of a number of Ugandans engaged in fish farming.
Lake Victoria is the largest and economically significant of the national fisheries contribution but lakes such as George, Edward, Albert and Kyoga including River Nile contribute substantially to the annual national catch.
The most important thing to note is for fishermen and those engaged in the fisheries value chain to adopt better methods of processing fish catch to attract better market potential for increased income earnings.
As such scientists at Abi Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Abizardi) in West Nile, Arua district have embarked on sensitizing fishermen and all involved in the fisheries value chain of fish species namely pebbly fish(Alestes baremoze) known as Angara, Brycinus nurse known as Onangnang, Nile perch, Nile tilapia and silver fish among others to apply best practices of fish catchment and quality processing.
This covers the landing sites in the districts of Arua, Moyo, Nebbi, Packwach and Adjumani.
The landing sites include, Para, Fundo, Agochomako along river Nile shores in Rhino Camp, Arua district, those in Adjumani district are Asejo, Fofo, Ologojo, Onikwe, Gulunya and Liri and those in Moyo are Ibowa, Kweyo, Maduga, Congo and Panyanga.
The ones in Nebbi and Packach districts covering both River Nile and Lake Albert are Dei A, Dei C, Abok, Singira A, Punjwamga, Mutir, Akello, Nyamwendo, Mangale and Mugobe.
This is in a bid to overcome challenges faced in capture fish farming which is reported to be reducing in the region mainly due to overfishing of the available species in the water including Lake Albert and River Nile.
The key point of emphasis is adoption of proper fishing methods and processing, packaging for Pebbly fish, Brycinus nurse and all other fish species for high nutritional food value and safety.
It is an initiative under a competitive grand given by World Bank to the scientists through National Agriculture Research Organisation (Naro) where Abi zardi became the implementing partner.
At the moment the processing plant has been constructed at Abok landing site in Panyimur Packwach district and was handed over to the farmers by the coordinator competitive grants at Naro Dr. Julius mukalazi.
Quality processing of the fish
The Director of the Institute Dr Sadik Kassim explaining about the initiative notes that the current sensitization of fishermen at Abok landing site is focusing on product development with emphasis on improving processing of fish particularly for the farmers in West Nile region.
Once fishermen have caught the fish from the lake and it is brought to the landing site, it should be cleaned thoroughly with clean water and dried on the erased racks
They should avoid processing fish on bare ground full of soil.
The traditional method has been drying the fish on bare sand which the scientists are discouraging because it gets contaminated with micro - organisms and encroachment from animals and chicken
Dr Sadik and his team constructed an erased rack of 12m by 15 cm comprising of 4 racks.
This will accommodate a total of 900 kg of Pebbly fish and about 450 kg of the rest of the fish species catchment per day.
The racks are wrapped with black polyphone mesh and this provides easy air circulation and a good sunlight heat for quality drying taking 2 days.
Dr Sadik explains that fishermen at Abok landing site on daily basis are able to earn Shs13 million from Pebbly fish catchment and about Shs7 million from Onangnag and other fish species on a daily basis.
The erased facility an added advantage for them to earn more but what is important is that the facility will serve other nearby landing sites.
Citing the poverty level in the country, Dr Sadik notes that the available statics indicates the poverty level in West Nile has dropped from 40% to 27.2 poverty, other regions such as Karamoja and Busoga are rated to be 60% meaning if the water resource Is utilized well the poverty level can drop further.
Mr Nasser Kasozi the programme leader in charge of livestock and fisheries at the Institute explaining the best practices notes that fish production by 2016 was reported to be 111,023 tons but to increase on this tonnage farmers fishing on Lake Albert are encouraged to use the right gill nets.
He explains that fishermen use both modern and traditional methods. Fish are caught mostly with open plank canoes both motorized and manual. The sizes vary from 4 to 12 meters in length depending on affordability by farmers.
In a number of localities, traditional methods including baskets, traps and mosquito nets continue to be used. The gears commonly used include gill nets, lift-nets, scoop-net for light fishing; hook and hand-lines, fishing rods plus fish traps.
Fish nets have different sizes. The small sized nets are used for fishing small fish while the big sized nets are used for fishing large fish.
For instance half inch up to one inch grade nets are used for fishing silver fish and Onangnang, one inch up to 6 inch grade for fishing tilapia and above 6 inch for Nile perch but for Pebbly fish about 4 to 5 inch is required.
Pebbly fish is migratory in nature especially during breeding time it goes to deeper water shed and farmers are advised not to catch fish which are breeding.
It is important for fishermen to ensure they sun dry Angara for 4 – 5 days under clean environment while on ground and 2 days on erased racks under continuous sunshine.
Farmers are discouraged from drying fish on sand to avoid contamination and unhealthy processed fish in the open markets of West Nile
Since pebbly fish contains a lot of fat, if not properly dried it will end up forming liquid oxidation resulting to unflavored fish.
It is advisable to use coarse salt particles which can be absorbed well in the fish flesh.
Over fishing on Lake Albert, Albert Nile and the River Nile in the zone is high with almost an equal amount of fishing during the day and during the night throughout the year.
Another challenge is use of illegal fishing gears especially in Nebbi and Adjumani. There is also increased number of fishermen from Democratic Republic of Congo in Panyimur and the of challenge water weed encroachment in fishing sites.
Mr Steven Opio the chairperson of the beach management unit explained that farmers have not been following the right procedure of drying the fish and sometimes they end up selling it fresh to get quick money.
However through their Savings and Credit Co-operative (SACCO) namely Cam Nyuthu Yoo (poverty shows you the way), they have been able to advice farmers to process fish by drying to attract better market price.
One piece of dried Pebbly fish is sold between 15,000 and Shs17,000 on site and the group is able to carry out bulk sell through the association where members are encouraged to save between Sh20,000 and Shs30,000 per month attracting 2% interest which is kept for 6 months before proceeds are shared.