News and Events

An Innovation In Fish-Smoking Improves Lives

December 20th, 2017

The traditional method of fish-smoking in Unnichchai, a small fishing community in the Batticaloa district sees women spending many hours tending to fish laid out on mesh over smoking coals. Health hazards from smoke inhalation are high, while the output from such intensive labour is often low. That is now changing with the introduction of […]

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‘Celebrating Partnerships’ showcases the European Union’s support to district development in Sri Lanka

December 20th, 2017

Celebrating Partnerships, an exhibition on the European Union’s support to district development in Sri Lanka, was jointly inaugurated in Colombo on 12 December 2017 by Chief Guest Dr. Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, H.E. Tung-Lai Margue, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the […]

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The European Union launches programme to reduce poverty in Uva and Central Provinces

November 29th, 2017

The European Union launched one of the largest programmes of development support in the country. The European Union will contribute Rs. 5.4 billion in to reduce poverty in the provinces by improving the income of poor people living in rural areas and helping to ensure that they have enough food to eat, even in times of hardship. Speaking […]

Read More

Celebrating partnerships – An exhibition on five years of collaboration under the EU-Support to District Development Programme

October 17th, 2017

An exhibition celebrating partnerships built over the course of five years opened in Mannar and Vavuniya on 10 October and 12 October respectively.  The event is part of the European Union’s Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP), which helps the poorest communities in Sri Lanka by providing basic infrastructure and services that benefit the local […]

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The Government of Sri Lanka, European Union, United Nations and IFC jointly inaugurate the exhibition ‘Celebrating Partnerships’

October 17th, 2017

The roaming exhibition which was showcased in the Northern Province has now reached the districts of Ampara and Batticaloa. Inaugurated on 17 October in Ampara and 19 October in Battlicaloa, the pictures show a series of development work that has been done to address the needs of the population. This exhibition is part of the […]

Read More

An Innovation In Fish-Smoking Improves Lives

Posted on: December 20th, 2017 by Admin No Comments

The traditional method of fish-smoking in Unnichchai, a small fishing community in the Batticaloa district sees women spending many hours tending to fish laid out on mesh over smoking coals. Health hazards from smoke inhalation are high, while the output from such intensive labour is often low. That is now changing with the introduction of new smoking ovens pioneered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under a programme funded by the European Union (EU).

“The first thing I noticed was that the new technology helps me save time,” said Kopalapillai Theivarmallar who makes her living from fish-smoking to provide for her three daughters. “Before, I spent a total of 12 hours on two consecutive days drying and smoking the fish, and I used the old method of iron mesh. Now, 6 to 7 hours are enough to finish one smoking. It gives me plenty of time to take care of my children and do household chores,” she said.

Since 2008 FAO has worked on developing the FTT-Thiaroye, an improved fish smoking and drying oven technology. The oven can be purpose built, or the smoke-capturing chimney, oil-catching trays and other elements can be added to an existing oven. It is designed to improve fuel-efficiency in fish-smoking by encapsulating heat and smoke. It also addresses health hazards suffered by small-scale fish dryers – the vast majority of whom are women.

In the Batticaloa district, around 150 families are engaged in fish-smoking activities. The traditional smoking method is done in the open, making the fish prone to spoilage from rain and external contamination. Strong winds can lengthen the process and often results in lesser-quality fish that sell at lower prices.

“With the method of iron mesh, our smoked fish is of poor quality, they are sold at 600 to 750 rupees per kilo. This is a very low price. The money we earn is not even enough to send our children to school,” said Fransis Devamalar, a fish smoker who heads her family of four children.

The FAO technology was first introduced in Africa, where 12 countries have now adopted it.  Women using old methods of fish-smoking over an open fire often suffer eye and skin irritations and respiratory disease from the smoke. However, African women who have adopted the new method have improved their health, significantly increased their income, reduced their costs, cut down on losses, improved the quality and safety of their smoked fish, and were able to improve their family’s food security and nutrition.

In June this year, FAO with the European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) introduced the new smoking technology to Asia for the first time, starting with Sri Lanka where fish is a major source of livelihoods and nutrition. 

“Introducing the new ovens will help to make the fish value chain in Sri Lanka more productive and profitable for the poorest families,” said FAO’s Representative in Sri Lanka Nina Brandstrup. “We are planning to support the introduction of the new technology in other parts of the country,” she said. This requires guidelines to be prepared in local languages and disseminated, and extension workers trained to advise communities on the construction and use of the ovens.

Constructing the first oven with a shed for processing space in Unnichchai cost around Rs. 227,000 – relatively expensive for small-scale fishing communities. However, the oven is shared among many families and expanding it to other communities will likely rely on micro-finance support from the government, development institutions, NGOs or the private sector.

For Kopalapillai Theivamalar, she is already seeing the benefits. ‘Before, I could only process 16 to 40 kilos of fish per day, but with the new ovens I can smoke 100 kilos per day. Also, the firewood needed is cheaper.” Theivamalar is now able to sell the smoked fish at 1100 rupees per kilo due to the improved product quality.

An additional eight ovens are in the process of being constructed under the EU-SDDP project in Sri Lanka. “This is a good entry point to the Asian continent which produces close to half the world’s smoked fish,” explained Yvette Diei Ouadi, the FAO Fishery Officer who coordinates the programme.

The FTT pilot unit established in June 2017 in Batticaloa has demonstrated the potential for improving product quality, reducing post-harvest losses, and environmental issues. FAO Sri Lanka jointly with the Government of Sri Lanka foresees a wider scale initiative that mainstreams the FTT for improved livelihood and food security.
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Kopalapillai Theivamalar makes her living from fish-smoking in Sri Lanka. Using the traditional fish-smoking method can cause health hazards from smoke inhalation.

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Women in Unnichchai in the Batticaloa district using FTT-Thiaroye, an improved fish smoking and drying oven technology.

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Training on hygiene and fish handling technology

News and Events

An Innovation In Fish-Smoking Improves Lives

December 20th, 2017

The traditional method of fish-smoking in Unnichchai, a small fishing community in the Batticaloa district sees women spending many hours tending to fish laid out on mesh over smoking coals. Health hazards from smoke inhalation are high, while the output from such intensive labour is often low. That is now changing with the introduction of […]

Read More

‘Celebrating Partnerships’ showcases the European Union’s support to district development in Sri Lanka

December 20th, 2017

Celebrating Partnerships, an exhibition on the European Union’s support to district development in Sri Lanka, was jointly inaugurated in Colombo on 12 December 2017 by Chief Guest Dr. Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, H.E. Tung-Lai Margue, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the […]

Read More

The European Union launches programme to reduce poverty in Uva and Central Provinces

November 29th, 2017

The European Union launched one of the largest programmes of development support in the country. The European Union will contribute Rs. 5.4 billion in to reduce poverty in the provinces by improving the income of poor people living in rural areas and helping to ensure that they have enough food to eat, even in times of hardship. Speaking […]

Read More

Celebrating partnerships – An exhibition on five years of collaboration under the EU-Support to District Development Programme

October 17th, 2017

An exhibition celebrating partnerships built over the course of five years opened in Mannar and Vavuniya on 10 October and 12 October respectively.  The event is part of the European Union’s Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP), which helps the poorest communities in Sri Lanka by providing basic infrastructure and services that benefit the local […]

Read More

The Government of Sri Lanka, European Union, United Nations and IFC jointly inaugurate the exhibition ‘Celebrating Partnerships’

October 17th, 2017

The roaming exhibition which was showcased in the Northern Province has now reached the districts of Ampara and Batticaloa. Inaugurated on 17 October in Ampara and 19 October in Battlicaloa, the pictures show a series of development work that has been done to address the needs of the population. This exhibition is part of the […]

Read More