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Inclusive financing to scale up improved fish processing technologies in Malawi

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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.

In this second phase of the project, researchers will design and test strategies for scaling up improved solar tent dryers for small fish species and smoking kilns for larger fish species. The goal is to improve food and income security for artisanal fish processors and other actors along the fisheries value chain.

The challenge

In Malawi, fish account for approximately 70% of animal protein consumption. Fish are a good source of essential fatty acids and micronutrients and when eaten whole (head, organs, and bones), small fish species are rich in calcium, vitamin A, iron, and zinc. However, high post-harvest losses of fish (estimated at 34%) threaten their potential to contribute to food and nutrition security. These losses have negative implications on the supply of fish and on the incomes of actors in the fish value chain —especially women, who are involved in fish processing.

Evidence from the first phase of this project indicates that improved smoking kilns and solar tent dryers are environmentally friendly, effective, and economically viable fish processing technologies. However, efforts to scale them up have not been successful, in part because of the difficulties that women and youth face in in accessing capital. Capacity challenges and gender norms in the fishing industry that restrict women’s access to land, labour and non-labour inputs, training, and markets are also hindrances.

The research

Evidence from the first phase of the project showed that the benefits of solar tent dryers and smoking kilns are maximized when they are adopted as part of a package that combines the fish solar tent dryer or smoking kiln, certification of these products, and access to formal markets. Researchers will test a scaling up model that targets women and youth to link them to formal markets and to improve their access to innovative financing from various sources, including commercial banks, village savings and loan associations, and microfinance organizations.

The project will be expanded to two additional districts, Nkhotakota and Nkhatabayto (in addition to Mangochi and Salima districts from the first phase). Scaling up strategies will be assessed to improve cost-effectiveness and the capacity to reach many people, including women and youth. The project will also evaluate the effects of the model on reducing post-harvest losses, bolstering women’s economic empowerment, and increasing fish availability and consumption.                                      

Expected outcomes

• Generate evidence on strategies to scale up fish processing technologies for small-scale fish processors, taking a value chain approach from financing to product marketing;

• Increase capacity of women, men, and youth in fish processing, entrepreneurship, marketing, and business management;

• Increase the adoption of improved fish processing technologies and enhance economic empowerment of fish processors (primarily women and youth);

• Increase the availability and consumption of nutritious fish, and empower women and youth across the value chain, including increased decision-making and control over income from fish processing.

Learn more about this research.