Current State of Handling, Processing and Quality of Omena (Rastrionebola argentea) in Mfangano and Rusinga Islands, Kenya
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The livelihood of many Small Scale Fishers in Lake Victoria is based on the Omena Rastrionebola argentea fishery. The processing and trading in Omena in Kenya is dominated by women (80%) who derive their livelihood from the sale of the fish species. Their operations and practice in handling, processing and packaging of the fish is characterized by poor methods and low quality of the fish product due to current wide, traditional practice of drying the fish on the ground or on old fishing nets. This drying method results in fish products which are contaminated by microorganisms and debris. As a result Omena products on the market are of low quality, value and demand. The objective of this research was to determine the current status and practice in the handling, processing and quality of Omena in Suba District and appropriate technological interventions needed to improve the quality and add value to Omena products for a better sale price and to reduce post harvest losses especially during the rainy season. The second objective was to determine gender disparities among the small scale processors and the effects on fish quality and practice. Results indicate that there is no difference in the fish handling and processing practice among the genders. The quality of the Small Scale Fish processors’ fish products was low as fish samples tested were contaminated with debris and had a high bacterial load which included faecal coliforms. The experimental solar tent and rack dried fish samples were of high quality such as low bacterial count and free from faecal coliforms. Solar tent and rack drying technology if adopted by the Small Scale Fish processors can improve the Omena quality, raise the market value and increase income for poverty alleviation.