In Ghana, fish is a very important part of the local cuisine. To preserve the fish caught in this hot and humid climate, most fish are traditionally smoked before distribution and sale.
It is estimated that nowadays about 80% of all landed fresh water and marine fish in Ghana are smoked. Fish smoking is done by women, using a stove and firewood. In one of SNV’s studies, 120,000 baseline stoves were counted along the coast and fresh water regions. This leads to tremendous pressure on forests – especially mangrove wood which is popular among the fish smokers. As wood is becoming scarce, prices of wood go up and the women’s profits go down. But it also severely impacts the health of the women who are exposed to this smoke all day long.
As part of the USAID funded Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), SNV has developed an improved stove for fish smoking, called the Ahotor oven. This stove is more energy efficient and more durable than the baseline stove that women were using. At the same time, the improved combustion system has less of an impact on the women’s health. Fat, juices and blood of the fish that drip onto the fire, contribute to high toxic PAH concentrations. The newly introduced fat collector prevents these liquids from falling onto the fire and as such it reduces PAH concentrations improving the quality of the fish. The PAH is a measure of the toxicity of the fish and it should stay below a certain threshold for fish to be allowed on the EU market.
One of the main challenges is the adoption of the stoves by the women’s groups. Many of them are not aware of the downsides of the stoves they are currently using, or the availability and benefits of SNV’s new Ahotor oven. Even if they were aware of the Ahotor oven, the upfront cost of buying it is oftentimes a barrier.
To address these issues, SNV organised two stove awareness events on 21 and 22 March 2017 along the coast in the Volta Region of Ghana – all under the supervision and guidance of SNV Energy Advisor Emmanuel Kwarteng. Women’s groups, local government, the Fisheries Commission, stove producers, fishermen’s groups and local partners attended the events. Banners, flyers and fact sheets were available to inform people about current fish smoking practices and the need to change to this new solution. Through a theatre play by a local group, the challenges of traditional fish smoking were communicated to the audience in an engaging manner. Several speeches were given and finally everyone was taken to the site of a pilot stove. SNV paid for the construction of this stove and it served to convince the women’s groups of the benefits that the stove has to offer. The attendees admired the new stove and afterwards they were presented with a goody bag, filled with freshly smoked fish and ‘banku’ (a local staple food).
More of these events will be organised over the course of the year in other parts of coastal Ghana, around pilot stoves constructed by local SNV trained masons. Early adopters of the stove are rewarded with a reduced cost price. The end goal of the awareness events is to create a vibrant market for the Ahotor oven and as such, to support women’s groups and the environment.