RAPSL builds kiln oven facility for the fishing community

Reptile and Amphibian Program Sierra Leone on Saturday 15th April handed over a newly built Kiln facility in Mopala community, Temidaye chiefdom in Moyamba District, Southern Sierra Leone. The aim of the effort is to curtail mangrove exploitation within the Yawri Bay and Sherbro River Estuary and also improve the fish processing methods used by fishmongers in Moyamba and Bonthe Districts.

This development comes against the backdrop of research revealing that traditional “bandas” are inefficient and responsible for the destruction of mangroves predominantly used as fuelwood for fish smoking by locals. The research further revealed that traditional ‘bandas’ pose lot of health hazards to women, their families, and the community. Women and children have suffered from fire burns, choking from smoke, eye and respiratory complications from exposure to smoke and falling into naked fire during the process since sometimes it involves climbing on the bandas and stones around the fire.  Every year, reports of devastating fire incidents caused by leaving fish to dry overnight on the old banda have been rampant.

RAP-SL through its project Introduction of Energy Efficient Fish Smoking Stoves/ovens within Coastal communities of the Yawri Bay and Sherbro River Estuary with the approval of community leaders introduced this new fish-smoking oven design that can use both fuel-wood and charcoal briquettes, thus reducing operating costs. The energy-saving stoves are made of clay bricks lined with cement, a metal casing which maintains the heat during smoking. The structure also has a store where women can store their fish. The Kiln facility is fully solar powered allowing for women to smoke their fish even at night and well roofed providing protection from the elements.

Paramount Chief of Timdale Chiefdom, PC Joseph B. Solongnie welcomed the development. He informed the gathering that he is particularly happy for the development because the Kiln fishing ovens solve the problem of fire incidents, especially during the dry season. He reported that he has closely observed that other communities already using the new oven technology do not complain of any fire incidents. PC Joseph B. Solongnie further remarked that there is an existing law in the chiefdom that bans anyone from cutting mangroves for firewood and assured all present that this law will be fully enforced to protect the mangroves. “I am extremely happy because this puts an end to fire incidents. I will set up a committee to manage this facility and please be reassured that nobody will cut mangroves in this chiefdom” he said. “I look forward to more development” he ended.

Speaking on behalf of the women, Hawa Kabba, a fish trader said she almost lost her eyesight due to smoke and experienced difficulty in breathing from inhaling smoke during the fish drying/smoking process using the old banda. She said her experience with the new oven is excellent. “The new fish smoking oven uses less wood and the smoke/heat goes directly to the fish thereby drying my fish easily. At night I just set it and go to bed because the new oven is safe” Hawa described.

The scientific adviser for RAP-SL Dr. Moses Sainge encouraged the community people to make good use of the structure and ensure they monitor its use. Dr. Moses emphasized the importance to protect the mangroves and implored the people to use stumps or charcoal and other logs, instead of cutting mangroves. He shared that the best honey comes from mangroves and this is an added benefit the people can derive from protecting the mangroves.

The Project Manager for Wetlands International in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Mr. Alhaji Malagie Siaka remarked that he was pleased to witness the completion and handing over of the structure. He admonished the community members to use the kiln oven facility well for their trade advantage. “I will forward your appeal for more kiln oven structures in other communities to Wetlands International” he promised.

 Mr. Edward Aruna, Founder and Director of Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone, in his address, thanked Wetlands International for providing the funds to undertake the project. He equally thanked the community people and the Paramount Chief for providing the land for the construction of Kiln. Speaking further, he enlightened the gathering about the international and national laws banning the killing of sea turtles and the cutting of mangroves referencing the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act of 2017. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” Mr. Arunae advised. He explained these laws to the people and counseled them to obey the law for the betterment of their communities and for the sustenance of their livelihood in fishing.

Wetlands International is supporting Reptiles and Amphibian Program to replicate about 21 improved fish smoking ovens in other chiefdoms including Deima Chiefdom, Settieh Chiefdom, Benducha Chiefdom and in York in the Bonthe Municipality. The Intervention of Reptiles and Amphibian Program is a move towards preserving mangroves and helping improve the lives of the women in the coastal communities whose main source of livelihood is fishing and petty trading. From the baseline assessment of RAP-SL, nearly 65% of women are often responsible for providing livelihood supports including food, schooling for children and health care in over 80% of rural homes in the coastal communities. Hence, targeting them for this project, curtailing the cutting of mangroves will result in the regeneration of more than 20 hectares of degraded mangrove areas within the Yawri Bay and Sherbro River Estuary.

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