Fish Smoking Hazards: How SNV Helps Ghana on Health & Environment

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

In Ghana, many people, especially women, who live along the coastal areas are engaged in fish smoking, known as ‘Namhowfo’ in Akan, one of the languages spoken in the country. As a means of living, fish smoking as it were, was done by traditional, inefficient smoking stoves. This method affects both human health and the environment.

< Wire mesh Iron mesh

According to the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), in Ghana like in other countries, traditional fish smoking stoves had exposed women to harmful smoke. This causes 16,600 deaths annually, in addition to environmental degradation, which comes in form of mangroves destruction. Mangroves are the sources of fuelwood for fish smoking.

A survey by SNV gives 120,000 as the number of traditional and Chorkor fish smoking stoves that are used in coastal regions for fish smoking. The survey states that, “The smoke from these stoves affects people’s eye-sights and also causes lung-related diseases.” This development informed SNV’s decision to develop the Morrison Improved Fish Smoker that seeks to attain 40 percent efficiency in fish smoking. Today, many communities are enjoying the new technology along with the FAO Thiaroye Technology (FTT) stove, transferred to Ghana from Cameroon.

Women sorting fish on wire Mesh v

Women sorting fish for smoking

Also, in order to improve the livelihoods of women involved in fish smoking and combat the deforestation associated with their activities, the Renewable Energy sector of SNV got “funding from DGIS for a two-year Improved Fish Smoking and Mangrove Restoration project (IFS) to support sustainable energy value chain in fish smoking markets in Ghana by improving both supply and demand side activities.

Typical Morrison Stove

A typical Morrison Fish Smoking Stove>

A field visit to Anyakpor coastal village by participants of the Smart Villages West Africa Regional workshop, organised by the Smart Villages Initiatives in collaboration with SNV was an eye-opener. Participants listened to women who smoke fish expressing their happiness for the introduction of the Morrison stove. They counted benefits to include increased volume of processed fish, increased profit, minimal hazard caused by smoke, etc.

Mrs. Helen Afiagbedefu smokes fish in Anyakpor village. She was using the Chorkor before the introduction of the Morrison Fish Smoking Stove said, in an exclusive interview, that the process of smoking fish was now faster, less hazardous and more money-yielding. She told of how, after switching to the Morrison stove, women in Anyakpor noticed the difference, especially in terms of reduced health hazards caused by the smoke and increased income as a result of the volume of fish smoked, compared to the traditional method hitherto used.

Sorted fish on wire mesh v

Sorted Fish

“Fish smoking has become faster for us now. I now smoke ten 25-litre containers of fish in two to three hours by using Morrison stove. I used to smoke the same quantity in three days by use of traditional method. Now, if I want to smoke fish, I arrange wire mesh in layers. I then spread the fishes on each of the mesh, numbering three, four or five. I would then place a chimney on top of the wire mesh rails to reduce the smoke, which negetively affects our health,” Afiagbedefu said through an interpreter.

Laying mesh on the stove for smoking

< Laying mesh on stove for smoking

She said that with the new stove, “women in Anyakpor are now making more money because we spend less time to smoke fish using this new stove than when we were using the traditional stove,” adding that “prices of smoked fish range between 40 and 100 Cedis, depending on the size of the fish. I make an average profit of between 30 to 50 Cedis a month.”

Mrs Afiagbedefu explaining fish smoking process

 

Mrs Afiagbedefu explaining the process of fish smoking to participants of Smart Villages West Africa Regional workshop >

 

 

 

 

Fish being smoked with the improved Morrison stove

 

 

 

Fish being smoked using Morrison stove

It therefore means that if governments in West Africa would promote the use of renewable energy in smoking fish, Mangroves would be preserved and the health hazard caused by smoke would be averted. In this regard too, the West African sub-region should design reforms that would promote renewable energy sources in which case, the private sector would play a more active role.

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