Monday, August 17, 2015

New fish smoking technique saves Cameroon’s coastal mangrove Forest

By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame

A new fish smoking technology introduced in the coastal regions of Douala and Kribi in Cameroon is helping the over 80% fishing population in the area fight poverty and reduce the degradation rate of the country’s mangrove forest.

  The project introduced by Environment and Sustainable Development Organization, OPED, a local NGO in Cameroon is seen as a cutting edge innovation that  will significantly reduce the rate of deforestation along the coast in Cameroon and the entire Central Africa if replicated experts say.

 ‘’We have introduced improved smoking technology  that uses  scales of fish and prawns and little or no wood as energy. These scales of fish and prawns from fishermen that were hitherto thrown into the sea, produce very good energy than wood. The method emits heat that avoids fish burn and smoke that gives the fish an attractive golden brown colour. This method reduces fuel wood consumption by up to two thirds. We have also introduce low-tech solar drying technology developed in Cameroon that entirely precludes the use of wood,’’ says Jonas Kemajov of OPED.

  Statistics from OPED before the implantation of the project showed that most of the 150,000 tons of fishery products emanating from southern coastline of Cameroon are smoked on
mangrove wood using inefficient technology causing 84% of mangrove deforestation and resulting in 30%  fish post harvest  loss.

He says the project will reduce demand for fuel wood while increasing revenues, significantly improve livelihoods of the fishing population while reducing deforestation and protecting the vital role played by mangroves as fish hatcheries and nurseries. It also serves as a protection against flooding, landslide and other climate change hazards.

Cameroon’s coastal lines especially in the Bakassi and Kribi areas have witnessed heavy flooding recently which government and environment experts blame partly on the rapid disappearance of its coastal mangrove forest.

The Environment and Sustainable Development Organisation (OPED) project was selected as one of the winners of the 2014 Equator Prize i twas announced.

  At the presentation of the award to the Cameroon minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Hele Pierre recently in Yaounde, he lauded the initiative which he said will go a long way to protect the forest around the coast and reinforce disaster risk management along the coastal areas.

‘’Disaster risk management encompasses a wide range of activities aimed at reducing the exposure and vulnerability of the population to hazards. This innovative project to protect the mangrove forest and empower the local fishing population is a laudable one that will add to other measures put in place by the government,’’ Hele Pierre said.

   Out of 1234 project initiatives from 121 countries, in the CBFF-funded competition , OPED project titled, “Alternatives to Mangrove Destruction for Women's Livelihood in Central Africa" was one of the lucky winners. The award, which recognizes the best environmental and sustainable development initiatives in the world, was received on September 22nd, 2014 in New York, on the sidelines of the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations.

Other environment expert have saluted the initiative especially as it is geared towards reducing poverty and the degradation rates of Cameroon’s coastal mangroves, thereby contributing to strengthening  the role of the country’s ecosystem in disaster risk reduction.

‘’ The role of ecosystems in disaster risk management especially in the coastal area cannot be ignored. Ecosystems with strong tree cover reduce the vulnerability of the coastline to floods.

Mangroves especially acts as buffers that help to reduce the risk of erosion and inundation,’’ says Timothy  Kagonbe, sub-director in charge of local partnership in the ministry of environment and Cameroon focal point in the Inter Governmental Group of Experts on Climate Change.

  The project has helped the beneficiary communities build some 380 improved smoking ovens with more than 60% of women smoking fish in the area adopting the new alternative source of energy.

According to statistics from OPED some1334 women have so far been trained on the new fish smoking technology (one that uses less wood energy).

  These women say they are now using the new technologies,teaching other women in their various networks.

Many already attest to the efficiency of the project.

‘’ The new fish smoking methods has made us realize improvements in both efficiency and product quality. It has created opportunities for new entrants and a wider range of market benefits for us here in Bonaberi - Douala’’, says Elizabeth Manga, head of the Bonaberi Fish Women in Douala.
  Statistics from the CBFF that funded the programme, shows that so far there have been some 30% rise in women’s income as a result of an increase of the sales of smoking fish since the project was launched in 2013.

‘’Preliminary results of post-adoption of  the improved  technology for drying fish and their impact on wood consumption indicate a decrease of over 44% in wood consumption,’’ the report said.
  The project that also trains women in the growing of shrimps has so far helped the fisher women develop more shrimp farming and improve their entrepreneurship.

‘We have built 32 aquaculture cages and this has resulted in an improvement in catches of 70kg on average per month with a substantial improvement in earnings of women beneficiaries in Douala alone,’’ said Jonas Kemajov.

He said at least 45 women have also been trained in the construction and use of aquaculture.

  Statistics from a report in the ministry of livestock in Cameroon shows that there are at least 3000 women in the  Southern region of Cameroon dealing in freshwater prawns.

Current harvest is in excess of 1000 tons per annum. Through a series of participatory research and assessment activities conducted in the area over the last three years, more than a dozen women community groups have expressed their interest in increasing their revenues through prawn aquaculture.

  With high prices, substantial knowledge on the new smoking technology and established marketing channels throughout West-Central Africa, prawns which do not face the major problems of market development encountered by other non-timber forest products will signifiantly improve the livelihood of these women and their families, the report said.

 At current prices, a 20% increase in prawn sales through aquaculture would return an additional $1 million to local women in the area the report  added.

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