A low tech solar tent is helping fishing communities along Malawi’s lake chilwain Malawi change the way they do business.
The tent made from polythene and a wooden frame is able to trap warm air and allow fish to dry faster in a clean controlled environment.
Traders say they are now able to sell better quality fish that fetch a higher price.
“I can tell you that I am a very happy and thankful woman because of this solar dryer project. When we collect fish from the lake, we dry them inside this solar fish dryer and it does not take long to dry because it is so hot,” said Jennifer Mussa, a fish trade.
The project is part of a study by Cultivate Africa’s Future, a fund supported by the Australian and Canadian governments that wants to develop new business models for fish processors.
Dr. Mangani Katundu a fisheries expert based at the University of Malawi, an implementing partner of the project said it does increase the quality of fish in the tent.
“Normally they would take one and a half to two days to dry; in here they will put in the morning by the evening they would be taking the fish out. So it reduces the amount of time that the fish processors would take to dry it. It also prevents loss of the fish due to predation,” he added.
Fishing is a crucial source of employment and nutrition in Malawi, according to Canada’s International Development Research Centre, 40 percent of fish is lost during processing.
Many traders like Meke Maulana, still use old methods like spreading the fish out to dry in the open.
“With this traditional method, I face a lot of challenges. Chicken and ducks come to eat my fish. Cats, dogs and flies also are a menace. As a result, business is not good and most of the time I lose a lot of fish also due to poor hygiene and sanitation,” Maulana said.
The simple solar drying technology is also being used in Zambia while plans are underway to start similar initiatives in other parts of Africa.