Fish smoking is an integral part of life in the riverine communities of the Niger Delta. Smoking prolongs shelf life, enhances flavour, reduces waste and increases protein availability. Smoked fish has fully developed as an alternative market to fresh fish. In the Niger Delta region, approximately 50,648KG of smoked catfish is consumed weekly either as smoked fish cuts or round fish and demand/consumption is expected to keep increasing as more people are becoming aware of a relatively cheaper source of protein.
Improved fish smoking ovens are sustainable technologies that can raise income, living standards and quality of life. One of such ovens is the Chorkor Oven. The Chorkor oven is a very cost effective and safe equipment used for drying fish, made up of a smoking chamber or oven and stackable smoking trays as well as an optional Banda house. The oven can be constructed using local materials like Clay bricks, hydra form bricks, cement blocks, burnt bricks and compressed earth.
Unlike the traditional smoking ovens which are inefficient in capacity and fuel usage, produce poor-quality smoked fish and cause significant post-harvest loss, the Chorkor oven is easy to use, uses up to 80% less fuel, has high fish smoking capacity, supplies a uniform and better quality product that attracts higher prices, is faster and healthier to use and reduces the risk of smoke inhalation and burns. Other advantages of the Chorkor oven are as follows:
- It has the capacity of smoking as much as 200kg of fish
- It saves up to 50% wood used by traditional method
- Conserves heat within and reduces risk of fire outbreak
- It is safe and fast compared to the traditional metal drum smoking kiln
- Fish product of the Chorkor oven are bright, golden brown with longer shelf life than the fish product of the traditional metal drum smoking kiln
- It smokes in lesser number of hours compared to the traditional metal drum smoking kiln
In 2014 PIND piloted the use of Chorkor oven fish smoking technology at the United Ufuoma Fish farmers Association (UUFFA). Through the use of the chorkor oven, farmers in the UUFFA cluster increased the number of fish they smoke in lesser hours (smoking an average of 100kg of fish monthly) thereby improving their ability to meet the ever increasing demand for smoked fish in the area.
The successful Pilot of the Chorkor oven intervention in partnership with the UUFFA has helped to showcase the potentials of the Chorkor oven both as a business as well as an effective tool for fish smoking creating sustainable access to fish smoking service to fish farmers and increasing the shelve life of their fish as well as generating additional income and employment to farmers and fish processors. It is also a huge potential profit-making venture for interested investors.