• Saturday, 22 June 2024
Farmers Look To New Fish Preservation Technology To Cut Down On Spoilage in Kwale

Farmers Look To New Fish Preservation Technology To Cut Down On Spoilage in Kwale

A new fish preservation technological intervention is assisting fishermen to reduce spoilage. In the village of Mwazaro, Lungalunga in Kwale County, the SolCoolDry system, is an innovation that consists of a small cold room and an ice-making machine and solar drying beds for their produce.
SolCoolDry which stands for Solar Cooling and Drying system is proving to be helpful to many fishermen and Mwazaro village at large where farmers have been counting loses for many years.
Mohammed Fundi Darusi, 45, has been a fisherman for 20 years and loss of his produce has been part of his life. He says several times he has been forced to throw away his catch after it spoils. Fish being a highly perishable commodity, he loses his daily earning.
He says because most fishermen start early in the morning and they just use traditional ways of fishing, they are forced to stay in the sea for a long time to get a sizeable catch. By the time that happens, a part of the catch has started going bad, forcing them to throw them away or sell them at a throw away price. Fish folk usually complain that the fish is spoiled and do not buy.
Having been forced to buy block ice from trucks which are heading to Vanga which is 51 kilometers from his Mwazaro village, most of the time he is at the mercy of brokers. He had to sell his catch at a throw away price, risking losing it all from his daily bread. The village is off grid on the power system and most villagers can’t afford an alternative power system.
“When we want to preserve fish we are forced to go to Shimoni and we are forced to source for our own transport which is expensive. Alternatively you buy ice blocks from the trucks and the drivers sell them at an expensive price but we don’t not have other means, I have to bargain and buy the block”, he says.
Saumu Salim is a seaweed farmer and also a fishmonger in Mwazaro village. During peak seasons at sea she harvest plenty of it but does have a market to sell it. Also as a fish monger when she gets a lot of the fish at the shore she usually doesn’t have a place to store to use the commodity for the next day.
 She says when she goes to buy fish at the shore, it takes 3 to 4 hours to have the commodity.
Also it’s not possible to find the type of fish you want from the same fisherman and you are forced to wait. When you do not have it is easy for your catch to go bad and hence leading to losses.
However, with the advent of the SolCoolDry system, things have become better. She adds she must go to the shore with ice flakes and can’t wait for more hours as she decides on what to take home for her business.
“I take my ice cooler, put in the ice flakes and wait for the fishermen, those who come early buy as I wait for more according to my preference and my clients”, she adds.
Dr Linus K’Osambo of the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), said a research assessment revealed a lot of post-harvest fish spoilage was due to poor handling, lack of equipment and a lack of ice to preserve fish. Hence the invention of solar-powered technology that can generate ice for 24 hours.
He explains how the system works to produce ice flakes, and also the solar drying beds whereby the villagers are able to use them for fish preservation. The system has two drying beds of 24 meters each which work differently using solar.
“The dryer has 24 trays which can carry up to 10 kilograms of fish each, which means it can accommodate 480kilograms of fish for every drying session taking a maximum of 18 hours depending on the type of fish and its thickness”, he says.
Also the ice flakes machine makes ice so that the fishermen are able to use it for fresh produce from the sea. He adds that before the fish is put up for drying it has to be cleaned and gutted before being spread on the dryer for the whole process to be accomplished.
Contrary to traditional ways of drying fish and its produce the SolCoolDry system is effective ensuring that it takes fewer hours to preserve the fish so that it can last longer. In Coastal areas, smoking to dry fish and spreading it on the ground to dry under the sun are most commonly used.
Dr. Peter Odote is a senior research scientist from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute KMFRI and he says communities like to dry the fish on the ground and the products end up having a lot of sand and it even takes longer for it to dry. So that time consumed waiting for the fish to dry can be used to do useful things.
“If you go to Vanga you find ‘dagaa’ spread on sand , it’s okay but you end up getting small stones and it becomes even difficult to consume it, in Lamu county ‘ngonda’ is dried on top of roofs and other places but it takes longer to dry”, he explains.
Also the fish does not dry at the required temperature and for maximum dryness to be achieved for the fish you need at least 50 degrees to achieve desired results.
The system is environmentally friendly because it is solar powered. As the country is gearing toward the use of green energy to combat climate change, the system is a perfect example of it.
Dr. James Mwaluma who is the Director Oceans and Coastal System at KMFRI says the technology is useful to realize the potential of the blue economy as the country is expanding fishing avenues to the deep seas of the Indian Ocean. Adding that this dream can be realized through such initiatives and the county can be assured of food security.
“This system helps in mitigating losses of fish because the catch which might have gone bad is now preserved and it saves a lot of food, which can be used in future. Even the fishermen save a lot of money because they are earning more profits, ”he adds.

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