Fish drying: Reduced spoilage through solar techniques

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Fishing communities in Cameroon, Cabo Verde and Malawi are benefiting from solar drying and solar-powered storage systems to better preserve fish. New technologies are enabling fish processors to deliver higher quality products, whilst boosting sustainable incomes and minimising environmental damage.

A new design of ‘solar tent’ fish dryer which significantly reduces the number of fish that are spoiled during the drying process is being tested by Lake Malawi fish processors. Currently, scientists estimate that for every 10 fish caught in Lake Malawi, four are spoiled during traditional drying processes by moisture or contamination from dust, insects or animals. With a wooden frame covered in thick, clear polythene sheeting, the solar dryer looks much like a shade house used to grow crops.

Researchers from the University of Malawi and the Department of Fisheries are working at five sites on Lake Malawi to improve fish processing over a 30 month period. The new design allows fish processers to produce top quality dried fish that can be sold in supermarkets, thereby earning higher prices. Pelina Bande, a fish processor from Cape Maclear, is one of the first to try the new design. “It’s easy to use,” she says, “because it’s inside the shade as compared to mine in the open sun, and I’m able to turn the fish without problems.”

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