A Practical Guide to the Construction and Introduction of the Chorkor Smoker by J. Zinsou and W. Wentholt


The chorkor smoker can help in improving the working conditions and the output of processing women. In addition, it gives a smoked fish of higher quality by burning less fuel. However, some factors must be considered.

You can propose the smoker to the processing women as you think it is an innovation likely to meet one of their needs and that they can take advantage of it. But before opting for this introduction you should make sure that:

  • Fish processing is a predominant activity in your area and that women are interested in its development
  • Expected profits are worth the expenses incurred in constructing the smoker

Irrespective of your objectives, the extension work will succeed only if you are able to arouse the interest of the processing women. They will especially be interested in arguments which explain how the smoker can solve their specific problems. Therefore, the extension worker should have a good knowledge of their environment.

For these reasons, it is advisable to study local conditions prior to the promotion of the chorkor smoker. The study will enable you to know if the project is viable. In addition it will provide you with the guidelines for the extension programme.

1.1 Studying local conditions

What information do you require?

You should first determine whether the investments in fish processing will be justified. This will depend on:

  • Catches, the regularity and the quantity of fish landed
  • The selling, demand, price fluctuations, transport facilities
  • The importance of the fish processing sector: the number of processing women, the interest in such activity, its role in the domestic economy
  • Building costs of the smoker; building material, labour, extra costs incurred in readjusting smoking shelters
  • The quantity of fish to be acquired on a regular basis in order to make the investment profitable (this is often estimated at 50 to 150 kg of fish but it changes with price)
  • The stability of fishing communities.

One should then endeavour to find out whether the use of the chorkor smoker will entail fundamental changes on technical and social grounds as well as with regard to management. It has been noted that its introduction will be more successful if it is closer to the traditional technique. This calls for a good knowledge of:

  • Current technology
  • Work organization and production relations; the characteristics of the smoker, the quantity of paid and unpaid labour, the distribution of profits, etc.

The conditions of the processing women differ from one another. The techniques used and work organization vary considerably from one country to another. In Sierra Leone for example, large quantities of fish are smoked by women. Vary often, the husband supplies the wives with who he entertains relations of credit. In those Moslem households, activities are often monitored by the first wife. On the other hand, in the hinterland of Gabon, smoking is womenís work but it is carried out under the supervision of men. The marketing of smoked fish is also done by men, which is contrary to what can be observed on the West African Coast.

This information can be acquired

  • By consulting documents and reports
  • Through observations and field trips
  • Through interviews with those authorities in charge of the training and supervision of fishermenís communities and with the communities themselves
  • Through socio-economic field investigations

1.2 The target groups

If you think that the introduction of the chorkor smoker can be a viable venture in local conditions and that the processing women will be interesting in improving their smoking practice, you can then install a pilot smoker and make a few trials before working out an extension plan.

It should be stressed once again that the success of the promotion activity for the chorkor smoker will depend on the interest you will have aroused among the target group.

The processing women will be more interested in arguments that explain how the new device can solve their problems than in the extension workerís view on the advantages of the smoker. In other words, the extension worker must be conversant with the life of the processing women and be able to stand in their shoes. In addition, a good knowledge of their social patterns will help you define the mode of communication for the extension work.

As a result, it is essential to have a good grasp of the following:

  • Age, level of education, family status, religion (taboos in respect of smoking), ethnic group
  • Main and complementary economic activities
  • Scale of organization, groupings, master opinions, etc.
  • Main problems of processing women

These data can be gathered through:

  • Consultation of documents
  • Fact-finding trips
  • Observations
  • Informal interviews with local leaders.

Selecting the target group:

Now that you have gathered essential data on the fish processing women you must decide which women or groups of women you want to work with. When investigating, you might have noticed that there are different groups of women. They are called sub-groups. You will be more efficient if you aim your extension activities at specific groups according to the objectives you are willing to attain.

For this reason, you must ask yourself why exactly do you want to introduce the chorkor smoker;

  • Is it to improve the working conditions of women?
  • Do you believe that its introduction is a way to incite women to organize themselves for the purpose of reinforcing their role in the community?
  • Or, do you rather feel concerned about the necessity to cut down on the use of firewood or to raise the quality of the smoked fish?

In the first cases, you may prefer to work with disadvantaged women whereas in the last case you will be more efficient if the focus is put on women who are involved in large-scale production.

1.3 In what conditions do you want to propose the chorkor smoker?

After selecting your target group you must think of the conditions on which the smoker can be offered; how you can make it attractive and what investment the group can be asked to effect.

Various organizations who worked with fish processing women in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Guinea noticed that the greater concern of the majority of women is their fish supply. For example, they prefer to invest in order to enhance their relations with fishermen rather than to invest into an innovation whose benefits are still undetermined. Thus, they limit the risks as much as possible.

The assistance you can possibly give will depend on the policy and means of your organization and on currency facilities.

A few possibilities are:

  • To offer individual credit to women
  • To organize women into groups to apply for credit with banks established in the region (this was done in Ghana)
  • To provide incentives such as wire-netting, a few smoking trays or a bag of cement if they are prepared to pay for other inputs (this strategy was used in Sierra Leone)

It is also essential to consider the necessity of altering the initial concept of the smoker with a view to adjusting it to traditional techniques. This should be preferably done in collaboration with the target group, for instance during a first demonstration session (see 1.5;)

1.4 Selecting the sites

They following criteria may guide you in making a good choice of site:

  • The importance of smoking activities in the village, and fish supply
  • Accessibility to a village
  • Is the site in the vicinity of a landing point?
  • The presence of field workers
  • The site should not be located in a flood-prone area
  • The presence of women groupings with whom you can collaborate
  • The practical factors of your organization.

You are advised to concentrate on only a few villages during a pilot phase.

1.5. Extension methods

The most adequate methods for popularizing the chorkor smoker are group methods such as group interviews, demonstration and discussions followed by individual visits.

Individual visits:

In fishermenís communities, information is carried from mouth to mouth according to well-defined channels. It is essential for an extension worker to become acquainted with those communication channels and their sources of information. Try to identify influential women in a community. Consult them first, then try to obtain their backing and participation. If they opt for the chorkor, the other processing women will be more motivated to adopt it.

Group interview:

As a general rule, women belong to small informal groups made up of members of their families, neighbours, etc. They can also belong to groupings or organizations of a formal nature, for example womenís groupings, political organizations, or credit associations. These groups and leaders play a predominant role in matter of communication and often influence their opinions and decisions on certain issues. This is why it is quite useful to know them better and to organize meeting with them.


In the first place, it is recommended to organize a demonstration for the representatives of processing women.

The objectives are:

  • The make the women acquainted with the chorkor smoker
  • To compare it with their own smoker and
  • Discuss the characteristics of the smoker which they like and those which they like the least in relation to their traditional model
  • The extension worker is aware of the necessity to modify the basic concept of the smoker so that it can be adapted to local needs.

It is advisable to form small groups of say 8 to 15 women for easier discussion. This will help the extension worker to determine the types of changes that might be necessary.

During such a demonstration in Sierra Leone it was discovered that women prefer their traditional method of arranging the fish. They would arrange the ethmaloses (bonga) close to each other with their bellies turned up on the wire-netting in order to optimize tray surface. The processing women would smoke large quantities of fish at a time (300 Ė 800 kg). This led the project concerned to introduce a three-tray chorkor, for high fish density would stop dispersion of heat through the trays.


In a second phase, you can organize training by target village. The training objectives will depend on your initial goal and may be the following:

  • The women know how to operate a chorkor smoker
  • They are aware of the benefits attached to its use
  • They know how they can acquire a chorkor smoker

The following means are suggested:

Comparing the smoker:

It is essential that the positive effects of the chorkor on the yield of the processing women are highly apparent. They can be made so by comparing the chorkor with the traditional smoker with emphasis on the formerís advantages in which the women are most interested.

Experiments carried out in Ghana and Sierra Leone revealed that women are interested in increasing their profits. The low fuel consumption and the reduction of losses (less burning and break) connected with the chorkor must be highlighted during a phase of demonstration. Other advantages that can be pointed out; it is time saving and has a greater capacity if compared with round smokers.

The conditions for this demonstration should not differ to a great extent from ordinary conditions. Use the species of fish and types of fuel the women are used to. Get them involved in your work. For this reason, do not select a lot of women.

Group discussion:

After the first phase of training, the extension worker can invite the participants to exchange their ideas about what they have just been shown. Such group discussions can facilitate a change of attitude and opinion especially if some of the women are convinced about the benefits of the chorkor.

It is recommended that the extension worker does not play a leading role in the discussion.

Follow up:

Individual visits to participants will enable you to find out what they have retained of the training and possibly to answer their new queries.

We hope that you are now prepared to better reflect on the usefulness and feasibility of the introduction of the chorkor smoker in your working area. In following chapters, we shall opt for a clayball-based model because it is cheap and can be easily built by the women themselves.

Contact Us:  greenlight2015@gmail.com Last updated: August 2006
This manual was obtained from the FAO library in Rome, Italy.