In Uganda, low-income groups and individuals cannot afford larger and popular types of fish, such as Nile Perch and Tilapia – meaning they miss out on a crucial source of nutrients. The solution? Embracing an overlooked variety that’s little in size but packs a big punch: silver fish, or ‘Mukene’.
This small, finger-sized fish species is one of the three main pelagic varieties found in Ugandan waters. However, it has mostly been ignored, and only eaten by poor families or used by animal feed processors in chicken, dog or pig food.
For 20 years, Charles Kyeswa fished on Lake Victoria at the Kiyindi landing site without appreciating the true value of this small fish. “We used to handle this fish like dirt,” he said. “We just poured it on the boat and stepped on it. At the landing site, we threw it on the ground for women to buy and carry away for drying.”
Poor handling resulted in the fish being mixed with sand and animal droppings, or it being stepped on or eaten by birds. Furthermore, insufficient storage facilities saw most silver fish laid out on plain cement in unventilated rooms once they were landed. This caused them to change colour, from silver to brown or grey, and the resulting bad smell, taste and appearance affected the market price and deterred many people from eating it. “I could not imagine Mukene in my mouth,” explained Enyou Peter, a fisherman at Lake Victoria’s Kikondo landing site.
Catching the next wave
Widespread nutritional deficiencies are prevalent in Uganda’s poor communities, especially among women of reproductive age and children under five years. To help address this problem, IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, through their Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) program, awarded funds to a consortium of researchers to work with fish value-chain actors to implement the ‘NutriFish’ project.
The partnership, which began in April 2019, involves the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences at the College of Natural Sciences at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda’s National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, Nutreal Uganda Limited, and McGill University in Canada. The researchers aimed to find ways to reduce post-harvest losses of Mukene, increase product quality, safety and accessibility, and improve the nutritional value of the fish.
The project looked at various improved post-harvest and processing technologies. “The first technology we promoted was simple plastic containers to reduce losses during fishing. Instead of piling the fish in stacks, every catch is put in a separate container which has the ability to let out water, thus reducing the spoilage that takes place if all the fish is stacked in one large container,” explained Jackson Efitre, NutriFish principal investigator. The project has also encouraged fishermen to use salt to preserve their catch and further reduce spoilage.
For processors, the project introduced solar tent drier technology to reduce losses. This is particularly important during the wet season when there is insufficient sunshine to fully air-dry the fish. The solar tent drier is a greenhouse-like structure constructed from wooden poles and covered with ultra-violet-treated polythene. “It helps avoid waste during the rainy season, and improves the fish quality because it is no longer exposed to contaminants,” Efitre revealed. “Above all, we have seen the price of solar-dried fish increase dramatically; processors now earn twice the amount per kg compared to open sun-dried fish.”
Mak Paves Path to Biodiversity Leadership: Inaugural ABS Project Workshop Strengthening Uganda’s Nagoya Protocol Capacity
By Laban Lwasa
In a groundbreaking event that unfolded at Makerere University‘s Telepresence Center on November 7, 2023, the Inception Workshop for the ABS Project took center stage, hosted by the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology, and Biotechnology. Prof. Tumps Ireeta, Principal of CoNAS, set the tone with a warm welcome, highlighting Uganda’s rich biodiversity and the pivotal role of the Nagoya Protocol in ensuring the legal utilization of genetic resources. The collaboration between NEMA and Makerere University, supported by the GEF, aims to equip professionals with ABS knowledge and position Makerere at the forefront of Nagoya Protocol compliance.
Prof. Arthur Kajungu Tugume, Dean of the School of Biosciences, emphasized the project’s significance in institutional capacity strengthening for the Nagoya Protocol’s implementation in Uganda, showcasing the School of Biosciences as a hub for genetic resource research and training. The pilot project, in collaboration with NEMA, GEF, and UNEP, aims to expand countrywide and potentially across the African continent. It seeks to empower a skilled workforce informed on ABS issues, contributing to economic development and poverty eradication as aligned with SDG 1.
Mr. Achuu Peter, Project Manager from NEMA, highlighted Uganda’s extraordinary biodiversity and the need to explore the benefits of genetic resources for medicines, food, and more. He emphasized the importance of the Nagoya Protocol in mitigating biodiversity loss and highlighted challenges faced by Uganda in terms of weak institutional capacity, inadequate policies, and lack of coordination for ABS. The project focuses on strengthening ABS frameworks, capacity building, community-level management, and raising awareness to ensure equitable benefits from genetic resource utilization.
Mr. Daniel Abowe, UNCST ABS Project Officer, shed light on the complex landscape of national ABS laws in Uganda, resulting in legal complexity and high transaction costs for users. He also detailed the Uganda research approval process, emphasizing UNCST’s role in ABS implementation, which includes issuing access permits and ensuring benefit-sharing agreements. The multifaceted project aims to align Uganda with the Nagoya Protocol’s goals and foster collaboration between higher institutions and local communities for the management of genetic resources.
Dr. Katuura Esther, the Project Principal Investigator at Makerere University, highlighted the institution’s pivotal role in training and research. Makerere University aspires to be a thought leader, committed to providing transformative teaching, learning, research, and services that cater to dynamic national and global needs. The institution’s strategic goals encompass leadership in high-quality programs, knowledge dissemination, research, scholarship promotion, and corporate social responsibility. Dr. Esther also addressed the challenges and opportunities in preserving indigenous knowledge, emphasizing the role of digital technologies and collaboration between research institutions and local communities.
The programs designated for updating at Makerere University are a comprehensive effort to align with the Nagoya Protocol. Notable among these programs are BSc Applied and Economic Botany, BSc in Conservation Biology, Bachelor of Biotechnology, Masters in Botany, Masters in Genetics, Masters in Plant Pathology and Crop Science, and Masters in Economic Botany. This holistic approach aims to contribute to the conservation and equitable utilization of genetic resources.
Dr. Cyprian Misinde, the Director of Quality Assurance at Makerere University, emphasized the importance of incorporating international and global standards into the academic curriculum. He underscored the crucial role of projects like ABS in enhancing the capacity of professionals and equipping them to become part of a globally competitive workforce. This workshop marked a significant stride in Uganda’s journey towards sustainable biodiversity management and conservation, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond its borders, leaving a lasting impact on the world stage.
Laban Lwasa is the Senior Administrative Assistant, Makerere University, Grants Administration and Management Support Unit (GAMSU)
Ugandan student Dorothy Akoth wins 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award
Ms. Dorothy Akoth, a Master’s student at the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University has been named one of two winners of the 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award. An expert jury selected Akoth, who was nominated by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology together with National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI), for the instrumental role of her research in improving the knowledge of the distribution and imperilment status of 110 native fish species outside the iconic Haplochromine tribe of East African cichlids. The student was supervised by Prof. Fredrick Muyodi and Dr. Jackson Efitre
from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences at CoNAS, Makerere University, and Dr Vanny Natugonza of Busitema University.
Since its inception in 2010, the annual GBIF Graduate Researchers Award (previously the Young Researchers Award) has sought to promote and encourage innovation in biodiversity-related research using data shared through the GBIF network.
CARTA Fellow Anywar Selected as Fellow of ASLP
Godwin Anywar (cohort 6 graduate, Makerere University) was selected as a fellow of the Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP) based at the Future Africa Campus at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, on September 8, 2023.
Within the month, he:
- Will be participating in the Uganda-Swiss Museum Cooperation Workshop from September 24 – October 4, 2023, in Kampala, Uganda, and will present on ‘Traditional Medicine in Transition.’
- Presented a keynote paper on ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing during the PhD Journey’ at the Makerere University Business School (MUBS) 27th Annual International Management Conference (AIMC) under the theme “Leveraging Governance, Human Capital and Technology for Sustainability in Kampala – Uganda on September 25 – 27, 2023.
- Presented a paper on ‘The Cannabis/Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) Landscape in Africa: An Overview of its Cultivation and Legal Aspects’ at the 20th International Napreca Conference on Natural Network for East and Central Africa (NAPRECA) in Harare, Zimbabwe on September 20, 2023.
- Attended the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Science Forum at the University of Nairobi on September 20, 2023, to celebrate 50 years of DAAD in East Africa.
Source: CARTA Newsletter Issue 69
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