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Harnessing the dietary nutrients of underused fish-based products

September 12, 2019
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The Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) is a ten-year, CA$35 million partnership (AUD$37 million) between IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). CultiAF funds applied research aimed at improving food security, resilience, and gender equality across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Nutritional deficiencies are widespread in Uganda’s poor rural and urban communities. Women of reproductive age and children under five years are particularly affected because of limited access to animal protein and micronutrient-rich foods, especially fish.

NutriFish project researchers will work with the fish sector and its associated value chains to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable groups who are in critical need of high quality, nutritious diets. NutriFish aims to increase the availability, accessibility, and consumption of underused fish to improve sustainable food and nutrition security and better the livelihoods of vulnerable groups. It also aims to increase by-product processing through public-private partnerships.

The challenge

The declining stocks of large fish and high exports and post-harvest losses have resulted in fewer fish for Ugandans. Consequently, Uganda’s per capita fish consumption of 12.5 kg/person/year is half of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s recommended amount. This low consumption rate is expected to decline even more because of Uganda’s high annual population growth rate.

Currently, most Nile perch are processed for export markets, leaving only the by-products (skins, bones, and heads) for local consumers. Poor handling and rudimentary processing of the by-products impedes harnessing the nutrients. There is a need to improve the handling methods of by-products and to use them to develop nutritious, low-cost, appealing, and safe fish-based products that could increase the availability and accessibility of fish products for vulnerable groups in Uganda.

The research

Researchers will improve post-harvest and processing technologies to find ways to reduce losses and increase product quality and acceptability. They will also improve the distribution of fish and fish-based products among populations that live far away from bodies of water.

To achieve these goals, researchers will:

  • quantify post-harvest losses and promote cost-effective handling and processing technologies for underused small fishes and fish by-products;
  • assess socio-economic and institutional factors that constrain access to and use of underused fishes and fish-based products;
  • develop fish-based complementary foods for vulnerable groups using underused small fishes and by-products;
  • develop marketing models to efficiently distribute fish-based products; and
  • enhance the capacity of partner institutions to maintain the availability and consumption of underused fishes and fish-based products.

The project team will integrate a gender-responsive strategy to ensure that product development, marketing, and entrepreneurship strategies include women. This will enhance women’s economic capacities and their acceptance and adoption of fish and fish by-products in their diets.

Expected outcomes

  • Access to affordable and nutritious fish-based products for an estimated 560,000 consumers from lower income groups;
  • Contribute to reducing the incidence of micronutrient deficiencies, particularly among women of reproductive age and children under 5 years;
  • Create diversified income opportunities for approximately 200 people (50% women) by developing enterprises in fishing, fish processing, and marketing;
  • Share project results and outputs with local and national policymakers to facilitate the scale-up of results.

Learn more about this project.