Makerere University College of Natural Sciences through the NutriFish Project participated in the Harvest Money Expo held on 18th-20th March 2022 at Kololo Independence Grounds, Kampala. The annual event is an initiative by Vision Group in Kampala, organized with support from the Netherlands Embassy and other partners.
The theme of this year’s Harvest Money Expo was, ‘Farming as a Business’. The expo aims at giving farmers the best agronomical practices and value addition tips throughout the production value chains of the different enterprises, as well as equipping farmers with knowledge on their areas of interest.
The expo attended by thousands of agriculture enthusiasts from all over the country presents farmers a platform to showcase their innovations and new farming opportunities but also to learn from other exhibitors. It also presents exhibitors an opportunity to meet potential partners and clients.
Exhibition by NutriFish Project Uganda
Supported by the International Research Development Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) through their joint programme, Cultivate Africa's Future Fund (CultiAF), NutriFish aims to increase availability, accessibility and consumption of underutilized small fishes and Nile perch by-products for sustainable food, nutrition security and better livelihoods of vulnerable groups in Uganda. The NutriFish project is implemented in Uganda by the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences - Makerere University in partnership with the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) - National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), NUTREAL Limited and McGill University, Canada.
The project recognizes the nutritive value of the Small Pelagic Fishes (SPFs), as they are rich in bioavailable micronutrients including iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A and essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6). Besides, they are consumed whole, which enhances their nutritional benefits compared to the large fishes. Most consumers, including vulnerable groups in rural and peri-urban communities can purchase SPFs in small quantities at relatively affordable prices. The SPFs are therefore crucial in improving human nutrition, particularly during the first 1000 days of life (from conception to the second birth day) as they contribute to maternal health and better child development.
SPFs are however not being consumed in sufficient quantities due to: high levels of adulteration with grit, soil and sand; off-flavors (smelly fish); bitter taste and lack knowledge of the different methods of preparation. Traditionally, the SPFs are regarded as fish for the poor and livestock. Currently per capita fish consumption in Uganda is between 10-12 Kilograms per person per year which is below the internationally recommended amount of 26 kilograms per person per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
As key stakeholders in Uganda's Agricultural sector, the NutriFish project team led by Dr Jackson Efitre participated in the 2022 Harvest Money Expo to sensitize and increase awareness of the nutritional benefits of Small Pelagic Fishes including Rastrineobola argentea (Mukene), Brycinus nurse (Ragoogi), and Engraulicypris bredoi (Muziri).
During the exhibition, participants were introduced to the cookbook developed by the NutriFish project team with the aim of increasing consumption of the SPFs.
The cookbook contains easy-to-cook recipes for dishes, soups, sauces and porridge. The recipes were developed based on available common local ingredients, consumer preferences in the different communities and affordability by rural and peri-urban communities. Most of the ingredients can be grown locally or purchased in the local markets. By using these recipes, it is envisaged that the households will have the opportunity to consume SPFs in diverse forms. The high micronutrient content inherent in the SPFs included in the recipes will particularly benefit the vulnerable groups such as women of child bearing age and children below the age of five. These recipes have been demonstrated in selected fishing communities and peri-urban areas in Kampala.
The cookbook is intended for households, communities, local government staff (Fisheries, Community Development Officers, Nutrition staff and Village Health teams), line ministries (Health, Education, Agriculture and Fisheries) and non-governmental organizations. The cookbook can be used alongside other resources, such as the Uganda food and Nutritional Strategy and Investment Plan (2004), Uganda Food and Nutrition Policy, Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (2011-2016), National Food and Nutrition Strategy (2005) to promote consumption of SPFs particularly among vulnerable groups (women of reproductive age and children under the age of five years.
During the Expo, participants were amazed by the different forms in which small pelagic fishes would be prepared. They requested the Project team to share a copy of the cookbook to enable them try out these recipes at their homes. Others admitted that mixing small pelagic fishes with other ingredients such as mushrooms and okra kills the bitter taste that is usually found on the head.