June 18, 2024

“Today, with the new way of packaging our fish, they don’t hang around in our baskets anymore. We receive orders from everywhere, even from people who want to travel outside the country”, proudly displays Mrs. Atitso Adjowa, President of the Lolonyo cooperative.

The Lolonyo cooperative was created in 2013 by the women fish processors of Nangbeto, in order to pool their energy and generate added value to their activities. This cooperative has its headquarters in Atakpamé – Agbonou and brings together 28 women who specialized in smoking fish from Nangbeto.

In 2015, it benefited from a capacity-building project on good hygiene practices and the processing of agri-food products with the FAO. They are among the hundred or so enterprises that have been supported through this project, for the valorization of products from local agri-food processing, the knowledge and appropriation of HAACP standards, cooperative management, the management of their enterprise and finally marketing to conquer the local market.

In 2021, the Lolonyo cooperative obtained funding in the form of a direct beneficiary grant from the FAO, through the forests and farmers mechanism, this time for the rehabilitation of two sheds and the construction of seven improved chorkor ovens, two of which were built on the cooperative’s production site and five on the fishermen’s camp, followed by the reforestation of 3 hectares of land with wood for consumption.

These actions are in line with its strategic framework for the decade 2022-2031, to promote innovative food systems through the 4 improvements: better production, better nutrition, better environment and better living conditions, leaving no one behind.

Significant changes

The women of Lolonyo used to use traditional ovens for smoking fish these ovens consumed a lot of wood and the smoking time was 6 to 7 days. Each of them earned barely 20,000 to 25,000 CFA francs per month, an income that is too low to allow them to meet all their basic needs and to keep their living conditions from becoming precarious. In addition, the women are exposed to constant smoke and heat, which is harmful to their health, leading to frequent cases of illness. The smoked fish was of low quality, uncompetitive and risky for the health of consumers.

“Today, with the improved chorkor ovens, our wood consumption is reduced by more than half, as is the time taken for cooking. Once the oven is well heated, the fish cooks by itself and is well browned after 3 days. We no longer feel uncomfortable, we finish our day without even knowing that we have just spent a full day working. Before, we used to use a lot of wood, up to 50,000 francs for a day’s work. The smoke caused burns to our eyes.  The proximity of the fire all day also causes pain in our whole body,” says Ms. Atitso.

The quantities of smoked fish have doubled and the cost of production has fallen because of the reduction in the amount of wood used and the cooking time by half. They each earn an income of at least 50,000 to 60,000 FCFA per month with the adoption of these new improved ovens.

The women are still supported in capacity building in good hygiene and production practices, marketing, packaging and labelling. They save 1/3 of their profits in a common account that allows them to buy inputs to run their activities and then share 2/3 as income from their activities.

“We are appealing for additional support so that we can equip our site with a water supply system, which is a big constraint for us because we use a lot of water to clean the fish before smoking them. We would also like to build latrines on the site and have changing rooms for our own needs and hygiene.