This article was published on IW:Learn website
On any typical day in the coastal communities of Manufahi Municipality in Timor-Leste, more fish may be harvested than can be consumed or sold. At other times, there is a need to preserve seafood so that it can be stored over long periods when the supply chain is unpredictable, such as during the pandemic. Covid-19 restrictions, and the resulting economic uncertainty in the industry, have persisted throughout 2020 and into 2021. As a result, many in these communities are struggling to make ends meet.
The Rapid Food Security Assessment by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) of Timor-Leste in 2020 found that households had 10% less fish than the previous year due to the pandemic. The amount of food stored in households was also found to be low, with 64% of households having two or fewer months’ worth of food on hand and 58% reporting that their food storage levels are less compared to last year.
To weather the crisis, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) of Timor-Leste, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme initiated training on seafood processing to prolong the shelf life of seafood, keeping it in good condition for later consumption or sale. From 15-17 September 2021, ten representatives of women’s groups from Betanu, Uma-Berloi and Clacuc village were trained in sanitation and hygiene related to seafood processing, so they could properly store fish to prevent spoilage, and process it into salted fish, fish jerky and fish floss. In Manufahi, the fish commonly processed are mackerel, frigate tuna, moonfish, and red snapper.
“We need equipment, product diversification and fish processing (techniques) distributed to each group so the women can use them,” said Zumira Da Costa, a participant in the training held at Desa Betano in Manifahi. Those who attended were able to develop their existing skills, while also gaining a clearer idea of work that remains to be done. “Participants still need (additional) training for different fish product diversification,” said Saras Fernandez, another trainee from Desa Betano. “So they [can] produce their own product to be commercialised or [gain] access to local and national markets,” she added.
The training was also attended by National Director for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management, Celestino da Cunha Barreto; and Director General of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Resources, Acacio Gutteres. In the opening remarks, Mr. Gutteres highlighted that this training is one of the programmes that have been mutually agreed upon between MAF, especially the State Secretariat of Fisheries and ATSEA-2.
In Manufahi Municipality, ATSEA-2 Programme focuses primarily on designing and supporting the designation of the Betano to Claluc Marine Protected Area (MPA), while also developing Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) plans. This will incorporate climate change adaptation by promoting alternative livelihoods and capacity building, along with the development of an Ecosystem Approach Fisheries to Management (EAFM) for sustainable fish feed production.
By improving the management of fisheries and other coastal resources in Timor-Leste, ATSEA-2 is committed to safeguarding the livelihoods and prosperity of coastal people, particularly in transboundary areas, through the implementation of sustainable integrated concepts.