Small Fish and Food Security: Towards innovative integration of fish in African food systems to improve nutrition

Project consortium and fund

Coordinator: Norway, University of Bergen, Jeppe Kolding,
Norway, Institute of Marine Research, Marian Kjellevold,
Netherlands, Wageningen University Paul van Zwieten,
Germany, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Johannes Pucher,
Ghana, University of Ghana , Joseph Yaro,
Ghana, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Amy Atter,
Kenya, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, James Njiru,
Uganda, National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, Anthony Taabu-Munyaho,

Project’s summary/abstract
The SmallFishFood consortium is a multidisciplinary  research  team from Norway, the Netherlands, Germany,  Ghana,  Kenya  and  Uganda, covering the fields of fish stock assessment, processing, marketing, nutrition, risk assessment and governance. We provide  innovative  rethinking  of  the food security discourse by focusing on the nutritional value of small fish (e.g. sardines). We aim for transformation to ecological sustainability and food security by asking:  How can socio-cultural,  economic and institutional transformations of the fish value chain, as well as technical and infrastructural innovations, contribute to improved, sustainable utilization of small fish resources for Africa’s low-income population? The fact  that  the nutrients in fish can play a significant role in combating the triple burden of hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases is the starting point of the project. However, the unique qualities of fish are seldom recognized in the global food security discourse, and fish is strikingly missing from nutrient deficiency strategies among disadvantaged groups. Small fish are ubiquitous in all aquatic environments from large marine ecosystems to seasonal ponds, as well as in market places and low-income household diets, but their significance is underrated and little understood as they are consumed locally and often go unrecorded in catch statistics. In fact, fisheries are the most energy efficient producers in comparison to other food production systems and have the least environmental impact in  terms  of  greenhouse gases and use of freshwater, fertilizers, insecticides/herbicides. Catching small fish, which are simply sun-dried and consumed whole, is the most high- yielding, eco-friendly, low CO2-emission and nourishing way of utilizing aquatic resources. However, a range of social, technical, economic and legal barriers inhibit the full potential of utilizing small fish and it is the aim of this project to contribute to solving these.

Project’s main objective(s):
Identify, quantify and map current patterns of production and distribution of small fish for food and feed, with particular reference to Ghana, Kenya and Uganda;
Identify and describe the harvesting, marketing and  utilization  patterns  of small fish and how they contribute to food and nutritional security in these countries;
Improve the production processes to achieve better quality and longer shelf life;
Disseminate the nutritious value of small fish to stakeholders and governance agencies and analyse how barriers to sustainable utilization can be resolved.

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway
 Summary ToC with assumptions

Nutritional qualities of (small)fish are not appreciated in the global food security discourse, and fis is strikingly missing from strategies for nutrient deficiency reduction. This leads to misrepresentations i policy attention, limited recognition of the ubiquitous and abundant resources; lack of innovation t improve nutritional qualities, processing and marketing; and low awareness of the potential dietary an economic importance. Causes are manifold but include i) a biased focus on the less abundant large fish, ii a large and widely distributed small-scale fisheries sector involving numerous actors in catch, processin and trade, and iii) a general belief that the fisheries sector is overexploited (although this is rarely the cas for small fish). In addition, the value of micronutrients in ‘low-value’ small fish is high but not wel known. While small fish has always been part of the diet in African societies, they have received littl focus from local or international development interventions. With few exceptions, fishing, processing an trade institutions have rarely addressed the large quantities of small fish that are produced and processe by mainly the small-scale artisanal, and often part-time sector, many of whom are women. All this reflect the current neglect and resulting knowledge gaps with regard to local importance, the natural productio potential, as well as possibilities for improvements and innovations in catches (volumes, technologies information), processing (nutritional value, products, safety, losses) and trade (losses, diversification consumer awareness). The overall objective of the SmallFishFood project is to contribute to improved sustainable utilisation of highly productive resources of small fish for Africa’s low-income population i order to alleviate hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases. Our assumptions an aspirations are that by systematically addressing the constraints, knowledge gaps and policy issues throughout the whole production and value chain, in a comprehensive way, will help highlighting th importance of the resource to obtain the required necessary policy attention, as well as the technical institutional and socio-cultural transitions needed for this sector to contribute to the SDGs.

Expected outcomes and impact