Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in its recent fisheries and aquaculture technical paper says small pelagic freshwater fish, including the silver cyprinid Victoria sardine (dagaa), stand to boost Africa’s food and nutrition security and sustainable and healthy livelihoods.
Yet, the paper suggests that there is lack of recognition of the importance of this type of fish species for nutrition, food security, livelihoods and public health, which has led to inadequate investment to improve the quality, shelf life and public awareness of this vitally important resource.
It maintains that catching dagaa, which are mostly sundried, affordably purchased in local and consumed whole, is “the most high-yielding, environmentally-friendly, low carbon dioxide (CO2)-emission and nourishing the way of utilising the high productive potential for African inland water bodies.”
Economically, the paper says, dagaa are the second-most important species in Lake Victoria after Nile perch, support the biggest fisheries in the lake by weight, with a catch of almost half a million tonnes per year and may be “the most important species of the lake in terms of regional food security.”
But only 30 per cent of dagaa production is used for human consumption and the remaining percentage goes for the production of industrial feeds for poultry and livestock.
It is in light of this, that we want to raise public awareness about developing a culture of consuming dagaa for their nutritional value.
This is attested by a study conducted in 2011 and published in World Journal of Agricultural Sciences, which also shows that low-value fish products assessed had high levels of micronutrients.
It shows that dried dagaa, for instance, has the highest amount of iron (8.2-107 per 100g) and crude protein content of 53.0-58.8 per cent. Zinc was highest counting for 10.1- 10.2 mg/100g, calcium exceptionally highest and fats 12.5-13.2 per cent per 100g.
Thus, according to this study, micronutrient profiles in low value fish products such as dagaa can contribute to nutrition security of low income populations and this is true for Tanzanians living along the shores of Lake Victoria and other lakes in the country.
We say this because due to their size, people think dagaa are only for poultry or livestock feeds, but indeed have high nutritional value that we shouldn’t neglect due to ignorance.
Some families may even decide to go to bed without any meal even if they could have dagaa as part of their meal. Therefore, FAO recommends efforts to recognise the neglected socioeconomic and nutritional value and potential of low-value fish like dagaa and promote balanced fishing patterns.
This will indeed help create food security and address malnutrition. So, let’s develop a culture of eating dagaa for their nutritional value in our body.