Funded by the European Union (EU), the project under a campaign banner “Clean Fish, Better Life” aims to help reduce millions of tons of fish going to waste every year due to glut and poor storage.

The food security segment at FAO says Kenya loses 23 million dollars

every year due to poor post-harvest storage and a further 20 percent loss in lack of efficient transportation facilities during surplus production.

Locals say lack of markets, storage facilities and poor infrastructure is a main cause of the losses incurred.

Post-harvest losses caused by spoilage of fish are estimated to amount to 10 million to 12 million tonnes annually, in addition to about 20 million tonnes of fish which are discarded at sea in a year.

However, the launch of the “Clean Fish, Better Life” campaign on July 13 is a glimmer of hope for the locals as partners in the project hope to minimise the losses through a number of activities including awareness initiatives and the government-planned establishment of fish processors along the shores.

Under the Smart Fish Framework, EU Rural Development Programs Manager Pietro Nardi said the program would contribute to an increased level of social, economic and environmental development.

“Under this program we would see enhancement of deeper regional integration in the Eastern-Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Region through improved capacities for the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources,” Nardi told Xinhua by telephone on Tuesday.

The smart fish project, managed by the Indian Ocean Commission and funded by the EU and co-implemented by FAO, operates in 20 countries throughout the Indian Ocean region, southern and eastern Africa. It focuses on fisheries governance, management, monitoring control and surveillance, trade and food security.

Nardi said the program deals with both the post-harvest losses and hygiene, which is the EU’s focus in the program. However, he said this can be achieved through awareness creation.

“We want to see the fishermen reduce their loss and increase their profit,” he said. “By doing so, they will also help to boost the economy of the country.”

The campaign was launched at a colorful event at Dunga beach in Kisumu County and attended by EU officials, members of FAO, the fisheries department, members of the Dunga beach management unit (BMU), fishermen, fish mongers, members of the local community, journalists from the East Africa region, and Kenyan artist, Nazizi who did the campaign song “Usai ni Pesa” in a live performance.

FAO food security expert Davide Signa said lack of awareness is the cause of the PHL and that the loss could still be reduced if only the locals knew how to handle such situations.

“When fish is plenty, and cannot be transported immediately, it can be preserved in coolers or be processed to fillets which can be exported, or can as well be smoked or sun dried,” Signa said.

He stressed that it is only the locals who know how better the solutions to the problem can be advanced.

“We came up with a 16 minutes video through Alessandra Argenti of the Cultural video foundation, made flyers and that guided on how to choose good quality fish and also came up with a recipe booklets guiding on how to cook fish healthily,” Signa said.

The FAO food security expert said the UN agency would in October launch a mobile platform for dissemination of information.

“Most of the locals do not know the value of fish, but with seven factories to be established along the lake region, coupled with the high level of production; they will be in a better position to avoid losses,” said Albert Mwangi, principal secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

However, the fishing stakeholders have improvised simple and local methods of preserving the fish by covering them with the hyacinth immediately after catch so that they can stay for an estimated 24 hours.

BMU Chairman Otieno Joel and his deputy Dominic Atendo said the preservation methods they have are less costly and environment friendly.

“We cover the fish with hyacinth then later we remove them and have good ones taken to factories while the Bad are sold at throw away prices to the women to sun dry them or smoke them,” said Otieno.

Lake Victoria has about 32,000 fishermen. Lake Victoria in West Kenya was discovered in 1858, and named after the Queen of England. It is the world’s largest tropical lake and the second largest freshwater lake covering an area of 69,485 square km. The boundaries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania cut through the lake.

As the source of the Nile River, the lake supports shimmering shoals of brightly colored cichlids and large Nile perch, one of the most popular game fish in the world. However, its main recognition is the production of the delicious Nile Perch.

Being low in fat and rich in proteins, it makes a great contribution to the animal protein supplies of many communities in both the industrialized and developing worlds hence boosting the economy.

In terms of food security fish plays a big role and this can be kept stable or improved by making better use of the fish produced.

This can be implemented by reducing post-harvest losses and increasing the percentage of fish used for direct human consumption.