NutriFish is a multidisciplinary collaborative project that intends to increase availability, accessibility and consumption of under-utilized small fishes and processing by-products for sustainable food and nutrition security. The consortium comprises of Makerere University (Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences (ZEFs), College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS); National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) of the National Agricultural Organization (NARO); NUTREAL Uganda Limited; and McGill University, Canada. The project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research Center (ACIAR), under the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund Phase 2 (CultiAF2).
Through this project, researchers will work alongside value chain actors to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable groups who cannot afford expensive commercial fish but who are in critical need of high-quality nutritious diets. Through improved post-harvest and processing technologies, the research will find ways to reduce losses and increase product quality, safety, and acceptability and improve distribution among populations living far from bodies of water.
Food insecurity and micronutrient deficiencies constitute serious challenges to human health and economic development in Uganda, particularly among vulnerable groups (women of reproductive age and children <5 years), in rural and urban poor communities. According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UBOS and ICF, 2017), 29% of children aged <5 years are stunted, 4% are wasted, and 11% are underweight. In addition, 53% of 6-59 months old children and about 32% of women aged 15-49 are anaemic. Further, zinc deficiency affects 70% and 30% of children and women, respectively, resulting in: poor growth; reduced resistance to infectious diseases; and increased incidences of stillbirth. Children and women in rural and urban poor (Base of the Pyramid, BoP) communities are particularly affected (Wanyama et al., 2018) due to limited access to animal protein and micronutrient-rich foods, especially fish. Despite several multi-sectoral interventions aimed at reducing malnutrition in Uganda, these interventions have not focused on harnessing the dietary nutrients of fish and fish-based products.
Fish offers superior protein quality, omega-3 fatty acids and higher concentrations of bioavailable minerals and vitamins (Bogard et al., 2015b, Wheal et al., 2016) that are critical for the health of children and women of reproductive age. However, fish has become less available and accessible, particularly to BoP communities, mainly due to declining catches of large fishes (>20 cm, total length), increased regional and international demand, high post-harvest losses and gender inequalities. Consequently, Uganda’s per-capita fish consumption of 10-12kg/person/year is lower than WHO recommendation of 25 kg/person/year. Fortunately, Nile perch processing leaves behind by-products such as frames, skin and heads which are rich in micronutrients, particularly Iron and Zinc, thus offering a critical opportunity for their conversion into highly nutritious and affordable foods for vulnerable groups. However, poor handling, inappropriate processing and preparation methods impede harnessing all nutrients in the by-products. Besides, there was limited information on the value chain of the by-products, including gender roles. In addition, there are increasing quantities of small pelagic fishes (<20 cm total length): E. bredoi (muziri), B. nurse (ragoogi); and R. argentea (mukene) which constituted 80% and 60% of fish catches in lakes Albert and Victoria, respectively (Nakiyende et al., 2013; LVFO, 2016). However, only 40% of the catches are utilized as human food, thus “under-utilized species. The rest of the USF are destined for manufacture of animal feed. Small fishes for the animal industry are typically dried on the ground with high levels of adulteration, hence undergo biological and chemical deterioration. Furthermore, prior to this project, there was insufficient information on dynamics of stocks of USF (biomass, exploitation patterns and sustainable harvest levels) which hindered the development of sustainable harvest models. Existing nutrient composition data were available only for a few nutrients primarily for R. argentea, with information on inter-lake variation in micronutrients lacking. Moreover, gender norms, myths, taboos and intra-household inequalities in food sharing limited access of women and children to fish and fish products. The factors contributing to women’s perpetual disempowerment along the value chains of the USF and NPB had not also been investigated.
The goal of NutriFish is to increase availability, accessibility and consumption of under-utilized small fishes and processing by-products for sustainable food and nutrition security and better livelihoods of vulnerable groups in Uganda. The project is achieving this goal through five objectives: i) Quantify stocks and nutrient composition of small fishes in four Ugandan lakes (Victoria, Kyoga, Nabugabo and Albert) to guide formulation of management strategies; ii) Identify and assess socio-economic and institutional factors impeding access to and consumption of fish and fish-based products by vulnerable groups to formulate appropriate gender-inclusive strategies/interventions; iii) Generate information on drivers and magnitude of post-harvest losses of under-utilized small fishes and promote cost-effective processing technologies among women, youths, policy makers and other actors in the value chain; iv) Develop and commercialize fish-based nutritious foods for vulnerable groups; and (v) Enhance capacity of partner institutions and actors along the under-utilized small fish value chain.
Ratrineobola argentea (Mukene), Brycinus nurse (Ragoogi) and Engraulicypris bredoi (Muziri)
Dishes, Soups, Sauces and Porridge
Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University. P.O. BOX 7062, Kampala, Uganda.