Much of the catch of the artisanal fishery in West Africa is processed to enable longer preservation with a view to supplying regions farthest from the coast where demand is high. Smoking is the most common preservation method in humid areas. Good smoking can ensure preservation for at least a few months.
Smoked fish is a staple food in many parts of Africa. It has a strong taste which is highly appreciated and its price on the market is a fair one if compared to those of other sources of animal protein.
In many countries, fish smoking is a women’s activity. For those women who live in fishing communities, fish processing and marketing are an income-generating business. However, several obstacles stand in their way:
- Their purchasing power is low, so preventing purchase of an adequate quantity of fish
- Their traditional smokers burn a lot of fuel
- The fire is not easily controlled, which results in losses through burning
- The capacity of some traditional smokers in relation to the quantity of fish obtained is inadequate
- The working conditions are hard because of heat and smoke
In order to overcome some of these obstacles and to improve the quality of the smoked produce, a new type of smoker was devised in the seventies by the Food Research Institute of Accra assisted by FAO and with the collaboration of the rural women of Chorkor village in Ghana.
The chorkor smoker has a rectangular shape and is made up of two smoking compartments. The fishes are laid in superposed trays of the same size of one compartment.
The smoker has the following advantages:
- Its fuel consumption is low
- Less time and effort is needed from the women
- it can be easily handled by two persons
- the length of life of the smoker can be extensive if properly maintained (3 to 15 years depending on the material used)
- its building costs are relatively low
- the capacity is high (about 200 kg of fish at a time)
- the smoker requires little change in the techniques traditionally used by the processing women; the trays are the only new element
- it supplies a uniform and good quality product
Despite all these advantages, its zone of use in Africa is still limited. This document provides guidelines for easier extension. We believe that the chorkor smoker can actually help in making the work of women more profitable and effective and in curbing the deforestation which is a growing issue in Africa.
In the first chapter we shall focus on the conditions that need to be established to promote this smoker and enable its adoption by women. Then, we shall explain how it is constructed and how it works, as well as the packing and storage of fish.