A new and easy-to-assemble fish drying technology pioneered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) should help to reduce health hazards, improve food safety and quality, improve working conditions and cut down food losses in West African fishing villages, reported FAO in February 2015.
Smoked fish is a vital source of food and income for many African coastal communities. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, an estimated 20-30 percent of local marine and freshwater catch is consumed in smoked form, according to FAO.
A popular protein alternative, smoked fish is preferred by locals because of its taste, its nutritional benefits, its competitive prices compared to other protein sources such as milk, meat and eggs, and its long shelf-life which ranges from 3-6 months.
However, traditional kilns widely used to prepare this popular food item do pose some concerns. Traditional smoking techniques often involve a massive burning of wood, producing a high CO2 output. Also, traditional smoking releases contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic and hazardous to the human respiratory system, according to FAO experts.
Traditional techniques also leave higher amounts of tar particles on the final product, affecting taste and quality - making it much more difficult to sell.
The new FTT technology (FAO-Thiaroye Technology) - consisting of a dual functioning oven and mechanical drier, which also can act as storage unit - is especially designed to help small-scale fish processors prepare high-quality food.
A result of five years of design improvements, FTT makes it easy to upgrade traditional ovens and is capable of significantly slashing the carcinogenic contaminants produced during smoking. At the same time, the technology reduces the amount of fuel needed and provides a load capacity five times greater than traditional barrel ovens or twice the Chorkor kiln.
The new technology is proving popular in other African fishing nations as well, and its use is starting to spread in Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania and Ghana.
Development organisations like the Netherlands-based SNV are encouraging the use of FTT technology in Ghana as a way for small-scale producers to gain access to lucrative international markets.
More information:The FAO-Thiaroye Processing Technique (FFT-Tharoye)