Saturday, February 25, 2012

Better fish drying techniques offer higher incomes for Sri Lankan fisher women

By FAO's Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP)

Women in fishing communities in Sri Lanka’s Puttalam, Chilaw and Negombo districts are benefiting from training provided by RFLP to help them dry fish in a more hygienic and profitable way.

Fish drying is a major activity in the three districts, carried out by both small-scale as well as larger operators. However, most small-scale fishers process dried fish under poor hygienic conditions. Drying usually takes place on the beach using cheap, unpurified salt while sea water rather than fresh water is used to rinse fish. They are then laid out to dry on the beach with no protection from the crows, dogs and cats which are common in these areas.

As a result, not only does the final product lack quality but it is also sold at the lowest price in the market. Dried fish produced in this way therefore provides communities with little bargaining power and leads to small scale fishers remaining trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

Recognizing the need to raise awareness and skills amongst small-scale fishers RFLP launched a training programme for 120 women from fisheries societies in the Negombo and Puttalam areas recently.

The training helped boost awareness on food safety, hygiene and sanitation and introduced improved processing, labeling and packaging techniques.

The training will result in the women being able to produce higher value products while RFLP will also help them to forge links with more profitable market chains that will generate increased income. To do so a business association will be formed to help market the best quality dried fish that can be sold as branded products meeting approved quality standards.

To date, two two-day training programmes have been conducted in the Negombo area and two in Udappuwa, Puttalam. Two more training programmes will be held in the Battalangunduwa islands in the near future.

Feedback from the beneficiaries has been positive according to RFLP’s Champa Amarasi. “The training has not only taught these women better and more profitable ways to process dried fish but it has also given them increased confidence and self-esteem. Meanwhile, the business organization for dried fish producers has provided them a sense of security and recognition against the social stigma which they experience as a fisher community.”