Small Fish and Food Security: Towards innovative integration of fish in African food systems to improve nutrition

Applicant from the Netherlands: Paul van Zwieten (University of Amsterdam, Wageningen Marine Research (WMR), Deltares)


The SmallFishFood consortium is a multidisciplinary research team from Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, covering the fields of fish stock assessment, processing, marketing, nutrition, risk assessment and governance. We provide innovative rethinking of the food security discourse by focusing on the nutritional value of small fish (e.g. sardines). We aim for transformation to ecological sustainability and food security by asking: How can socio-cultural, economic and institutional transformations of the fish value chain, as well as technical and infrastructural innovations, contribute to improved, sustainable utilisation of small fish resources for Africa’s low-income population?
The fact that the nutrients in fish can play a significant role in combating the triple burden of hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and non-communicable diseases is the starting point of the project. However, the unique qualities of fish are seldom recognized in the global food security discourse, and fish is strikingly missing from nutrient deficiency strategies among disadvantaged groups. Small fish are ubiquitous in all aquatic environments from large marine ecosystems to seasonal ponds, as well as in market places and low-income household diets, but their significance is underrated and little
understood as they are consumed locally and often go unrecorded in catch statistics. In fact, fisheries are the most energy efficient producers in comparison to other food production systems and have the least environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gases and use of freshwater, fertilizers, insecticides/herbicides. Catching small fish, which are simply sun-dried and consumed whole, is the most high-yielding, eco-friendly, low CO2-emission and nourishing way of utilizing aquatic resources. However, a range of social, technical, economic and legal barriers inhibit the full potential of utilizing small fish and it is the aim of this project to contribute to solving these.


Project number

W 09.03.107

Team members

Dr. J.M. Bavinck, Prof. F.E.K. Nunoo, Mr. R.M. Sande, Dr. J. Scholtens, Ir. P.A.M. van Zwieten

Link to home page LEAP-Agri