FishFirst! Zambia: Research for Development and Scaling Staple-Fish Products for Enhanced Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days of Life

Fishers in boat
Submitted by Kathleen Ragsdale/MSU

We are conducting research at Zambia’s Lake Kariba to understand constraints and opportunities faced by women, men, and youth involved in harvesting, processing, and selling/trading small pelagic fish. Our goal is to determine ways to increase access to these nutritious fish among vulnerable family members, particularly mothers and infants. Located about 137 km from Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka, Lake Kariba is one of the world's largest human-made lakes. At approximately 226 km long and up to 40 km wide in places, Lake Kariba shares a border with Zimbabwe, provides electrical power to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and supports commercial fishing and small-scale fishing.

FishFirst! Zambia will focus on Lake Kariba’s small-scale fishers, fish processors, and fish sellers/traders. During Phase I, we will collect information from participants using four survey tools, including a new adaptation of the Women’s Empowerment in Fisheries Index (WEFI). The WEFI collects information from key decision-makers in a household (such as husband-wife dyads), on household-level hunger, the kinds of fishing-related activities conducted by each participant, how much input she or he has in decision-making regarding these activities, how much access she or he has to productive assets (such as locally produced or manufactured fishing equipment, such as baskets, nets, and hooks), her or his access to financial assets and credit (such as membership in a Village Savings & Loan Association or other micro-credit group), and existing gender attitudes that impact women’s and men’s economic outcomes.

The WEFI and other results will help us determine leverage points to impact postharvest loss, food security, gender equity, entrepreneurialism, and economic empowerment among fishers, processors, and sellers/traders at Lake Kariba. For example, in Phase II, we will be developing and testing nutrient-enhanced Complementary Food for Africa + dried fish powder (ComFA+Fish) products/recipes for enhanced nutrition particularly benefiting mothers and infants in vulnerable households. In addition, we will be working to gain a better understanding of the multiple stakeholders (including NGOs and private firms) who can be targeted to help develop, test, produce, and supply wholesome nutrient-enhanced staple fish products/recipes to rural householders and the urban poor. This is important across Zambia, where malnutrition is high and fish is not only acceptable, but a desirable part of everyday meals.

Our objectives include 

  1. Assess current state of small pelagic fish harvesting, processing, and trading activities from point of catch at Lake Kariba through processing and sale
  2. Identify social and gender barriers to entry into and participation in these activities for different fishery value chain actors, particularly women and youth
  3. Assess how small pelagic fish are consumed within households, particularly among mothers and infants
  4. Explore how it may be possible to upgrade the small pelagic fish value chain via improving processing of fish after catch (such as drying on racks), storing fish, and selling/trading methods to reduce post-harvest loss and improve food safety
  5. Develop and test nutrient-enhanced ComFA+Fish products/recipes for enhanced nutrition particularly benefiting mothers and infants in vulnerable households. The nutrient-enhanced ComFA+Fish products/recipes will focus on staple dried fish powder, crops (e.g., maize, sweet potato, cassava, soy), and seasonal fruits (e.g., mango)
  6. Explore options to scale production and marketing of the ComFA+Fish products/recipes with private and public sector actors, particularly women and youth entrepreneur

Success Story [2022]

Executive Summary of Results and Findings


FishFirst! Zambia: Learning Event - 2022 COMFA+Fish Sensory Panels I-II Results

FishFirst! Zambia: Learning Event - Exploring Food Insecurity Among Lake Kariba Fishing Families: Results From the Household Hunger Scale II

FishFirst! Zambia: Learning Event - Scaling Readiness Assessment for Instant COMFA+Fish Porridge

FishFirst! Zambia Phase III: Taste-Testing Two Instant Porridges for Scaling COMFA+Fish

FishFirst! Zambia: COMFA+Fish Phase II Sensory Panels I-II Results

Learn More

MSU Undergraduate Students Serving up Research to Feed Zambians

Technical Brief: Complementary Food for Africa+Dried Fish Powder (ComFA+Fish) – Scaling Recommendations

Technical Brief: Complementary Food for Africa+Dried Fish Powder (ComFA+Fish) – Sensory Panel III Results for Two ComF+Fish Instant Porridges

Combating Malnutrition in Zambia With Fish-Based Recipes

Technical Brief: Complementary Food for Africa+Dried Fish Powder (ComFA+Fish) – Nutrient Analysis and Sensory Panels I-II Results

FishFirst! Zambia Research Scholars Present Posters at 2022 Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium

New Tool Helps Quantify Post-Harvest Losses in Small-Scale Capture Fisheries

Post-Harvest Fish Loss Assessment for Small-Scale Fisheries (PHFLA): An Open-Access Customizable Tool

How Locally Sourced Fish Powder Drives Women’s Empowerment and Nutrition in Zambia