The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has started training fishing communities in West Africa on the use of its new technology for smoking fish: the FAO-Thiaroye Technique (FTT).

The innovation in fish smoking was introduced in Ghana in 2014 to address the weaknesses of the existing ovens such as the Chorkor Smoker with regards to food safety and the drudgery associated with the traditional smoking methods.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation explains that the technology has an overarching goal of reducing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) to standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for smoked fish and also to ensure food safety and minimize post-harvest losses among small-scale fishers.

At a regional capacity building to empower African Women and Youth with FAO Thiaroye at Elmina in the Central region, Omar Penarubia of the FAO explained that the major concerns of the FAO are the presence of  PAHs’ in smoked fish, handling and storage to ensure food safety and consumer health.

 “The FTT is an advanced processing technology designed from the strengths and weaknesses of the existing improved traditional smoking kilns; Chorkor and Banda. It has additional accessories and devices that can easily be installed on these kilns to improve fish smoking,” he said.

The use of dried wood as fuel in traditional processing with its resultant high smoke production, the FAO believes leads to high release of the chemical Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. These compounds are strictly regulated in smoked products on the international market in order to protect public health.

The FTT was principally designed to reduce PAH levels in smoked fish to ensure product safety in line with guidelines provided by the Codex Alimentarius Commission owing to its reliance on alternative fuel use. The provision of a hot air distributor, which also doubles as a storage facility helps in storage of products for longer periods and from animal predation and insect infestation.

According to FAO’s report on “Strategy for Sustainable and Competitive Fisheries and Aquaculture Post-harvest Chains and Regional Trade in Riparian Countries of the Volta basin”, poor handling and poor smoking technologies lead to a significant amount of qualitative losses in fishery products.

Therefore, the development of adaptable and gender-sensitive technologies for handling, processing and storage of fish provided by the FTT will lead to higher and more sustainable yields with an increased shelf life that will ensure local supply of high-quality smoked fish with reduced losses.

Presently, the compact is working in collaboration with national partners in ten countries at country level (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia) as focal countries and (Republic of Benin, Burundi, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania) as satellite countries.

Three more countries (Malawi, Togo and Rwanda) are expected to join the compact in 2019. The TAAT Aquaculture aims at demonstrating, disseminating and scaling proven technical innovations supported by adequate business calculation tools and linked to local markets.