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Matís’ Work in Developing Countries

Matís and the former Icelandic Fisheries Laboratory, that merged with Matís in 2007, have participated in developmental programs for more than 10 years, through teaching and supervision at the United Nations University – Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP). The cooperation has led to further work for the school with short courses in developing countries.

Developmental cooperation

Matís has conducted a total of eight short courses in five developing countries: Vietnam (2005), Sri Lanka (2006), Kenya (2008 and 2013), Uganda (2011) and Tanzania (2012, 2014 and 2015). The short courses have been from one to two weeks long and tailored to the countries’ needs. Former UNU-FTP fellows have in recent years actively participated in the course preparation and implementation. This cooperation has been valuable for all participants and especially for Matís, with the growing number of projects in developing countries the past years.

Tanzanian and Lake Tanganyika

In 2010 the Government of Tanzania tendered a consultancy service for the design of a research vessel, procurement assistance in connection with the vessel’s construction, assistance in conducting a socio-economic study of the riparian communities on the Tanzanian side of Lake Tanganyika and improving the handling and processing of fish from the lake. Matís won the tender, in cooperation with the engineering firm VJI, the ship design company Rádgardur skiparádgjöf, and the engineering firm GOCH in Tanzania. Matís led the project. It also handled the consultancy on fish handling and processing. The project management on behalf of Matís was in hands of Margeir Gissurarson. He has extensive experience in developmental projects and lived in Mozambique for over 6 years. The project areas were fisheries communities along the Tanzanian side of Lake Tanganyika. Most of the communities do not have access to electricity or running water, and the working environment was therefore different from what Icelandic professionals are used to. This area is among the poorest in Tanzania. It was therefore good that Matís could offer an employee who had lived and worked in a developing country for many years and was used to a working environment that is similar to the project area in Tanzania.

Smoking and drying of fish – common in Africa

The main fish processing at Lake Tanganyika is smoking and drying. For fish drying the fish is spread on the ground, and solar energy evaporates the water from the fish. This practice attracts birds and insects, which compete with humans for the fish lying on the ground. Additionally, during the rainy season, a lot of the fish washes away and/or gets spoiled. It is estimated that post-harvest losses are around 30% of the catch from the lake. This is around 10,000 to 20,000 tonnes annually. Fish is smoked over an open fire, and the fish therefore gets burned. Mostly women do the smoking. This exposes them to heavy smoke during the process. This leads to eye irritation and respiratory complications. Matís’ challenge was therefore not only linked to technical solutions but also to improving the health status of the fisheries communities.

The project’s outcome was a unit that can be used for both smoking and drying in a closed environment. The amount of wood used for smoking in the new unit was only 20% of what was used in traditional smoking, and the post-harvest losses were minimal. The new processing unit was a success, and Matís was asked to assist in continuing the work. However, the project was then coming to an end, and there was not much we could do at that time.

In 2014 the Nordic Climate Facility (NCF) advertised support for climate projects. NCF is under the Nordic Development Fund. Matís applied for support to improve the smoking/drying unit from the former project and to construct and distribute 100 units to the riparian communities by Lake Tanganyika. Matís’ application was approved, and the project is currently ongoing in cooperation with UNU-FTP and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI). The objective of the project is to reduce the amount of wood used in fish smoking in the project area by 80% and to improve the income of the fisheries communities. In Tanzania alone around 450,000 cubic meters of wood are used annually for fish smoking, and it may therefore be assumed that if the Matís design could be distributed to all fish-smoking operations in Tanzania, it would be possible to reduce the annual wood consumption for fish smoking by 350,000 cubic meters.

Geothermal energy for food production

Matís has implemented a geothermal project in developing countries. In 2014 Matís conducted a pre-feasibility study in Kenya and Rwanda on the use of low enthalpy geothermal energy for food production. Two Matís employees, Margeir Gissurarson and Franklin Georgsson, visited the country for two weeks to conduct the study. In Kenya there are many geothermal fields that provide high and low enthalpy energy, but in Rwanda high enthalpy fields have still not been located although in several places hot springs are found that can be used for food production.

Caribbean work – markets in the European Union

In 2015 Matís agreed to implement a project in the Caribbean area to assess the Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures applied within the CARIFORUM states and determine whether the countries fulfill international requirements on food safety. The assessment emphasized wild fish and aquaculture. The main objective of the project was to set forth a road map or proposal on what the states can do on the national and regional levels to secure access to valuable markets like the European Union and the United States of America. Eight countries were visited to assess the competent authority and the environmental monitoring. The results were presented to the official authorities and stakeholders in each country. Final recommendations were submitted in October 2015.

In recent years Matís has increased work in developing countries, and with every assignment the company’s reputation as a responsible and professional company for developing countries has grown.