Recent Trainings in Nigeria Taught the Importance of Food Safety in Fish Processing

A picture of the people who joined the Delta South and Central Senatorial District training.
The Nourishing Nations team held two three-day-long trainings with the fish processors in Delta State, Nigeria. (Photo credit for all pictures: Tayo Adeleke from Praise Pictures)

By Alaina Dismukes

In August 2021, a Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish project hosted trainings on fish handling and processing. Thanks to this training, the “Nourishing Nations: Improving the Quality and Safety of Processed Fish Products in Nigeria” project is helping pave the way toward a healthier fish product for Nigerians.

One of the main objectives of the project is to educate women and youth fish processors about the benefits of fish in one’s diet as well as teaching better fish processing practices, using a low-literacy tool the team developed.

Grace Adegoye, a PhD candidate at Mississippi State University whose advisor is the project’s U.S. principal investigator Terezie Tolar-Peterson, developed and validated the facilitator’s guide and participants’ workbook for the fish processor trainings. Adegoye and the team also designed and produced aprons, foldable hand fans, and wristbands as nutrition and food safety promotional materials for the fish processors.

After much preparation, Adegoye traveled to Nigeria where she met with the co-principal investigator, Henrietta Ene Obong, and project coordinator, Joseph Nuntah, to help facilitate the trainings in-person.

“The trainings went extremely well,” Adegoye said. “We started with the stakeholders’ meeting, and we had different representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and the Agricultural Development Agency as well as women and youth fish processors present.”

A picture of Grace Adegoye
Grace Adegoye, a PhD candidate at Mississippi State University, helped facilitate the trainings as a part of her work with the Nourishing Nations team.

After the stakeholders’ meeting, they also held two three-day-long trainings with the fish processors in Delta State.

“During the first training, we had more people than we expected to come,” Adegoye said. “We had over 50 participants. A lot of people invited friends, and everyone was excited to be there and participate.

“To accommodate more people than we expected was a bit of a challenge, but it was exciting to see everyone’s interest, and we were able to accommodate the extra people.”

During the second training, around 70 people participated from two senatorial districts. The original aim of the trainings was to train 50 participants total, and instead, between the two trainings, around 120 participants were trained.

“It was also a successful training,” she said. “They were all receptive and enthusiastic about it, and they were all able to participate and provide feedback since it was a training that allowed for more discussion.”

Training participants holding up nutrition and food safety promotional materials
Participants used nutrition and food safety promotional materials throughout the trainings, which provided visuals and promoted discussion amongst the groups.

The trainings focused on nutrition and food safety and included seven modules:

  1. Nutrition education emphasizing healthy eating
  2. Animal source protein emphasizing fish nutrition
  3. Food safety – fish safety and handling
  4. Fish processing techniques – fish processing methods (new/improved/modern)
  5. Food poisoning and contamination – fish contamination
  6. Hygiene rules and good practices – hygiene rules for fish handlers
  7. Economic benefits of quality and safe fish products

“We had a lot of noteworthy conversations in our trainings, especially with the participants sharing their experiences and their challenges,” Adegoye said.

“Out of the modern fish processing methods we taught them, most were interested in the solar dryer to process fish. They were also interested in the modern smoking kiln as well as oven drying, which we also showed them.”

The solar fish drying method, in particular, is a cost-effective way to dry fish using the sun without as much risk of contamination.

“Oftentimes, people will simply lay out fish to dry, but then pests and sand and other contaminants can affect the end product,” she said. “Using one of the modern methods greatly reduces the risks of contamination and provides a better product for the fish processors to sell.”

Here, the training participants are discussing common fish processing methods such as smoking fish.
Here, the training participants are discussing common fish processing methods, such as smoking fish, as well as better alternatives.

Another method commonly used in Nigeria to process fish is to smoke it.

“The problem with smoking the fish, they told us, is they often face the threat of a fire outbreak,” Adegoye said. “Some also complain about burns caused by heat from the fire and smoke affecting their sight and breathing.”

Another challenge the Nigerian fish processors face is that from July to September, fish are scarce because there is flooding from continuous rainfall, which causes turbidity and affects the fish in the ponds and rivers.

“In October, they have to restock their aquaculture ponds,” she said. “The economy suffers due to the flooding period, so we told them that the essence of our training also is for them to be able to have better quality and more nutritious fish products to increase the shelf lifespan. That way, even in the period of scarcity, they can have enough in stock to supply to their customers, and they can have the money in their purses.”

During the training, a pre- and post-quiz was given to the participants to test their knowledge acquisition and retention.

“From the quizzes they took, I was able to determine their foreknowledge and see if the training was helpful,” Adegoye said. “I realized that the majority, about 90 percent of all the participants, have little to no knowledge of fish contamination, so they have a knowledge deficiency in that area. However, the post-quiz showed that the training was helpful as they learned about possible contaminants and how to avoid them.”

Additionally, the project will host a business training in the future that will focus more on the practical ways of processing fish, such as using the modern cooking methods. Also, the training will teach other business strategies, such as how to keep records and preservation methods like packaging and labeling. The project team hopes that equipping fish processors with these skills and knowledge will help them improve their livelihoods and ultimately contribute to improved food security and nutrition in the region as consumers have access to higher quality fish products.

“The trainings were overall successful,” Adegoye said, “and I feel so happy and fulfilled that I was able to conduct the trainings. I look forward to hearing how the trainings have helped in improving their eating lifestyle, hygiene, safety, and quality of the fish products. I am optimistic that the upcoming business training will go well too.”

Published October 12, 2021