FRIDAY PHIRI, Mongu
IN an effort to promote business opportunities in the fish value chain in Western Province, Cultivate Africaâ€™s Future (CultiAF) Fund has launched a supplementary project to support viable business proposals to scale up workable post-harvest fish handling technologies.
Dubbed â€˜Expanding business opportunities for African youth in agricultural value chains in Southern Africaâ€™, the project is riding on another existing CultiAF initiative aimed at reducing post-harvest losses of fish through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, jointly funded by Canadaâ€™s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR).
According to Jonathan Tambatamba, director of programmes at the ATDF Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), a private company contracted by IDRC to implement the commercialisation project, â€œthe aim is to develop tools and support mechanisms for the realisation of agri-business opportunities in the fish and maize post-harvest value chains in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to serve as vehicles for commercialisation of research outputs of the CultiAF research projectsâ€.
Dr Tambatamba said, during the launch of the call for proposals in Senanga recently, that three novel and creative business models would be picked and supported with a US$5,000 grant each to implement their ideas, whose aim is to increase the participation of youth in fish and maize post-harvest agri-business chain.
â€œFor Zambia, the focus is the Barotse flood plain, where the community is already engaged in a CultiAF project investigating a number of post-harvest technologies aimed at reducing losses in the fish value chain,â€ said Dr Tambatamba, emphasising the linkage with the three-year Reducing Post-Harvest losses project, led by scientists from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, the University of Zambia and WorldFish.
With four technologies currently being tested and proving beneficial to the fishing community, the question has been sustainability. Therefore, the launch of the commercialisation project is seen as a boost to the communities in Western Province.
â€œIt is good news for us. For some of us who have taken up salting as the best option for fish processing, we would like to see the creation of proper market access of salted fish, which is not widely known by most consumers in Zambia,â€ said Joyce Nangâ€™umbili, a fish trader of Senanga.
For the 35-year-old mother of two and eight orphans, proper market access for her salted fish is crucial to her survival, especially now that she is making good profits as a result of reduced fish fragmentation after the introduction of salting.
â€œSalting is the cheapest technology that our co-operative has embraced. But we still have a challenge of markets for salted fish. We have to travel to Lusaka and Kasumbalesa because most local people donâ€™t appreciate salted fish, so this business opportunity is timely to address this challenge,â€ said Ms Nangâ€™umbili about the announced competitive grant.
She also noted the importance of strengthening womenâ€™s economic capacity, which the CultiAF project is emphasising, adding that â€œwomen empowerment is national empowerment as women are the backbone of the familiesâ€.
And appreciating the impact of the project, Senanga district commissioner Vivian Mubukwanu urged the fisher-folk involved to be ambassadors of change and encouraged them to seek guidance where necessary so as to submit viable proposals to scale up and commercialise the technologies that are being tried in their fishing camps.
â€œEquipped with best practices, I expect you to be ambassadors against bad methods of fishing and processing. I am particularly concerned with the use of mosquito nets in our community. You are the people who should help educate others to stop this bad practice for the sake of our future generations,â€ Mr Mubukwanu said.
Mr Mubukwanu called on the community to take full advantage of the fact that the grant is meant for the CultiAF project area in the Baroste flood plain.
â€œThis is for us here. Work to benefit from this grant to up-scale what we have seen already working for us. No-one can develop this country for us other than ourselves and no-one can develop this country all by themselves,â€ Mr Mubukwanu added.
Meanwhile, WorldFish research consultant Olek Kaminski encouraged the fisher-folk to turn the challenges they have faced so far into business opportunities as they develop their proposals.
â€œTake, for example, the solar tent drier technology requires plastics; and some PAR groups have presented the sourcing of plastics as a challenge but this can easily be turned into a business idea of supplying plastics,â€ observed Mr Kaminski during the Innovation Platform at which ideas were exchanged between PAR groups.
The platform highlighted that the technologies being tried are making a difference though sustainability could be a problem, but the financial incentive being offered by IDRC through AEH could be the difference between failure and success.
These interventions come in the background that poor processing and management are major factors leading to huge post-harvest losses of fish in Sub-Saharan Africa estimated at US$5 billion each year.
While knowledge alone has proved positive to the fishing communities, the announced financial incentive could be a sure way of sustainability beyond the CultiAF initiative.
FRIDAY PHIRI, Mongu