Small Fish and Food Security: towards innovative integration of fish in African food systems to improve nutrition (SmallFishFood)


African fisheries on small (pelagic) fish are the most eco-friendly and socially equitable of food production systems that support millions Africans directly or indirectly through food and income. As they are processed, sold and eaten whole small fish supply vital micro-nutrients for millions of people. Fishing pressure on most small fish species is still only a fraction of the pressure on large fish species. By fishing small fish lower in the aquatic food chain we can increase food production significantly. However, fisheries on small fish are undervalued in the global food discourse and under increasing pressure from misguided reforms and maladapted regulations. In addition, their local use as fishmeal in animal feeds, including for aquaculture, is increasingly competing for these resources. This interdisciplinary research project aims to research the nutritional benefits of small fish as well as map and quantify their patterns of production and distribution for food and feed, focussing on Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.


A comprehensive assessment of the various flows of small fish in value chains and that explicitly and in considerable detail keeps track of these flows (volumes, revenues, costs) from landing to consumer. To do so we aim to evaluate the contribution that this fishery plays in terms of food security, but potentially also in terms of contributions to the national economy (multiplier effect) and employment. By associating a value chain model to an ecosystem model, a full model of the socio-ecological system can be represented that will aid in setting policy and management goals.


At selected landing sites (starting point Lake Victoria, Kenya and Uganda) and markets (starting point Ghana) small fish value chains will be followed. At each of the levels in the value chain key informants will be interviewed to obtain quantified information of in/outflows (one up, one down the value chain) and losses of fish (products) in terms of volume and value as well as the operational costs and labour associated with the handling of these flows. Where numerous actors are involved a relevant sampling techniques will be adopted for various levels in the value chain. An estimate of the total number of enterprises (fishers, processors, trucks, urban and rural markets, supermarkets) will be obtained from regional and national administrative institutions. In order to extrapolate and contextualise the findings from the field interviews. A mass balance model will be constructed using the value chain module in ECOPATH. The value chain module will be built on top of (an) existing ecosystem model to obtain a full SES model. The focus in Lake Victoria is on Rastrineobola argentea (locally known as Omena, Mukene or Dagaa). The focus in Ghana will be on selected species encountered in main markets, including Sardinella aurita.