The Government of Burundi, one of the East African Community Partner States embraced Climate Smart Technology for preservation of fish from Lake Rweru. The improved modern fish drying technology is one of the projects of the regional initiative—Adapting to Climate Change in Lake Victoria—coordinated by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) for the East African Community (EAC) and funded by UNEP. With exception of South Sudan, other EAC Partner States are at different stages implementing context-responsive and climate resilient technologies.
The climate smart technology in Burundi aims to promote post-harvest fish preservation in a more efficient manner and with multiple environmental, socio-economic benefits to the local communities as compared to the traditional technology that was being used.
Three improved modern fish drying oven have so far been installed in Cagakori/ Kayove project area of Giteranyi Commune of Muyinga province; Nzove – Kayove project area of Giteranyi Commune of Muyinga province; and Nyagisozi area of Busoni Commune, Kirundo province. A total of 620 (58%male and 42%female) members of fishing cooperatives from the 3 cooperatives will benefit directly from the technology while 4,350 (59%male ad 41% female) will benefit indirectly from the construction of improved fish drying technologies.
Lake Rweru, a trans-boundary water resource shared between Burundi and Rwanda is reportedly said so be an important source of Akagera River within the Lake Victoria Basin. River Akagera contributes a significant volume of water to Lake Victoria.
Artisanal fishing alongside small scale farming and livestock keeping are the main sources of livelihoods for communities living along the shores of Lake Rweru, Burundian side. Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) is the predominant fish species that is harvested in Lake Rweru and sold in the local markets as well as in major urban centers in Burundi such as Bujumbura, Gitega and Ngozi while some is exported to Democratic Republic of Congo.
In order to preserve harvested fish, fisher folks along the shores of Lake Rweru mainly use fish smoking technology that requires treating fish by exposing it to smoke from smoldering (incomplete combustion) wood or plant materials. This is done using traditional and outdated kilns that combine the effects of drying, heating, and smoking fish using fuel wood. Use of traditional fish smoking technology along Lake Rweru is due to unavailability of modern energy in this remote area with limited connection to the national electricity grid to support modern fish preservation and processing technologies. The shift in practice has been applauded by LVBC Programme coordination team as “a good practice worth emulation by other fishing communities.” The commendation of the practice by the regional programme coordinating team was based on its inherent capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emission, cost effectiveness and resource efficiency.
The use of traditional kilns for preserving harvested fish suffer a lack of control over the temperature and smoke production leading to inefficient and high consumption of wood fuel hence putting a lot of pressure on the existing forests resources within the localities of Lake Rweru. As a result, this has led to increased deforestation and land degradation which in turn makes the area vulnerable to desertification, soil erosion and flooding.
The traditional method of fish preservation also produces a lot of smokes which contributes to the increase in greenhouse gases emission into the atmosphere thus contributing towards global warming and climate change.
Health wise the operators of the traditional kilns for fish preservation are exposed to very high temperature and high smoke density which are major risk factors for several respiratory ailment such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), respiratory tract infections especially in children and the elderly, lung cancer, eyes and skin related diseases.
“Installation of improved fish drying kiln is expected to enhance energy efficiency of fuel wood consumption by more than 70% as compared to the traditional and rudimentary kilns. This is expected to contribute towards addressing degradation of ecosystems,” the Regional Project Manager Dr. Masinde Bwire.
The technology is also expected to increase the quality and the nutritional value of preserved fish thus fetching high market prices which will increase the profit margin earned by the fisher folks. The improved oven shortens the fish drying processing time by close to half as compared to the traditional oven, thus saving time for local communities to engage in other livelihood related activities. Additionally, improved kilns offer decent working conditions, reduced occupational safety and health risks as compared to the traditional kilns that were initially used in the area.
“For sustainability of the technology the project will strengthen institutional and technical capacity of cooperatives and local communities to ensure that stakeholders have adequate knowledge and skills to maintain the benefits of the fish drying technologies” Anicet NKURIKIYE, the Project Coordinator of ACC-LVB in Burundi said.
“Approximately 10% of the daily revenue generated by each fishing cooperatives will be used to cater for purchasing inputs and the maintenance and repair costs of the new technologies,” he added.