The project on Harnessing dietary nutrients of underutilized fish and fish-based products to combat micronutrient deficiency among vulnerable groups in Uganda” held a stakeholder engagement workshop on the 27th/2/2023 at Makerere University The project is implemented by the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, (NaFIRRI) in collaboration with Makerere University, Nutreal, and McGill University.
The Director NaFIRRI, Dr. Winnie Nkalubo, who represented the Director General NARO the in a speech said the overall goal of NARO is to enhance the contribution of agricultural research to sustainable agricultural productivity, economic growth, food security, wealth, and job creation through generation and promotion of appropriate technologies, knowledge, and information. NARO’s core business is grounded in the generation and promotion of technologies, innovations, and management practices (TIMPS) in crops, livestock, fisheries, forests, and the integration of indigenous knowledge with modern scientific methods. NARO has a 5-year Strategic Plan that provides direction for investments in agricultural research, shifting focus from increasing agricultural production and productivity to causing real societal socio-economic transformation. This plan responds to the aspirations of Uganda as enshrined in Vision 2040 to transform agriculture into a profitable, competitive, and sustainable sector of the economy.
From the research findings of research conducted by NaFIRRI in collaboration with Makerere University, Nutreal, and McGill University on Small Fish specifically Mukene. The DG said silver fish (Mukene) although abundant and productive in our aquatic ecosystems continues to be viewed as a low-value commodity that is largely reduced to fish meal, oil, and used in animal feed. Yet, these small fish have a high content of micronutrients essential for combating deficiencies, particularly among vulnerable groups.
The Minister of State Fisheries Hon Hellen Adoa in a speech read for her by the Acting Director, Directorate of Fisheries Resources, MAAIF, said she was happy to be part of the stakeholder engagement organized by Makerere University in collaboration with the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute of NARO, Nutreal Limited, and McGill University, to learn more about the fisheries research interventions provided by the four partner institutions to address the challenges faced by the sector. She said that given the value of fish in terms of exports (approximately USD $ 177 million annually) and the local economy, Government has prioritized fish as a commodity in the Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (ASSP), which is a flagship for investment and development in the agricultural sector in line with the third National Development Plan (NDP III) that is being implemented since the Financial Year 2020/21 to Financial Year 2024/25. She said through the Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan, promoting the fishery of small-scale pelagic fishes is one of the priorities of the Ministry and is aimed at addressing issues of hunger and malnutrition to improve food security in Uganda. The small fish are challenged with various constraints along the different value chain nodes that include harvesting (production), post-harvest handling, processing, marketing, and consumption. It is encouraging to note that findings from the research conducted by Makerere University and NARO in collaboration with other partners and stakeholders can provide solutions to some of these problems.
She said the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act 2022 is now in place and will provide an enabling environment within which to operate. She said strides have been made in controlling the fishing effort and managing the illegalities on our lakes, in addition to demonstrating the profitability of fisheries through our partners and the private sector. She was happy that the project has been working closely with the Private Sector and other stakeholders to generate the appropriate technologies and necessary policies for enforcing the law.
She hoped that interventions will address the challenges of unsustainable harvest as well as post-harvest losses prevalent in the small pelagic species fisheries and that clean energy harvesting innovations; like the use of solar lights were key to increasing production and reducing contamination to fish catch and pollution to the environment. The diverse products developed under the project would increase the acceptability and consumption of small fish by humans, which was a good intervention to improve nutritional security, particularly for vulnerable groups (children below five years, the elderly, and pregnant women). She said two of the study lakes of the project (lakes Victoria and Albert) were transboundary and shared with our neighbors (Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo). She urged the project team to share the project outputs with our neighbors through the existing regional bodies: Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) for Lake Victoria, and Lakes Edward and Albert Fisheries and Aquaculture Organisation (LEAFAO) for Lake Albert. The dissemination of project findings will contribute to harmonizing activities and ensuring sustainable management and utilization of the lakes’ resources.
The key outputs from the Project included; The E-CAS system (Electronic Catch Assessment system designed by NaFIRRI, Mukene Cookbook, and different projects made from Silverfish (Mukene) by Makerere University and Nutreal.
The Australian Government through Agencies; International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) are the funders of this project.
The Workshop was attended by a Representative of The Vice-Chancellor, of Makerere University, The Acting Director, of the Directorate of Fisheries Resources, MAAIF, The Deputy Executive Secretary, LVFO, and Representatives of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation of the East African Community, The Deputy Executive Director, LEAFAO, The Principal College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University, Various District Local Government Staff, Development Partners, and the Private Sector.