Between the Sun and Fish Are People: A Socio-economic Study of Solar Dryers for Fish Processing in Malawi

  • Fundi Wandisunga Kayamba-Phiri
  • Gry Synnevåg
  • Moses M. Limuwa


The study examined how the use of solar tent dryers has improved the livelihoods of fish processors in Chipala and Vinthenga villages in Nkhotakota, Malawi. The study used the sustainable livelihoods framework to analyse the findings. A mixed methods research design was employed in the study. To analyse the qualitative data, a thematic analysis was used, and for the quantitative data, inferential and descriptive statistics were used such as logistic regression model and t-tests. The findings showed that the solar tent dryers have improved fish processing; however, the impact of the dryers on livelihoods is minimal and not well accounted for. Some key sustainability measures were lacking and therefore posed a threat to the continued use of the method. As a result, the dryer was not in use in Chipala which indicated no impact on livelihoods. The logistic regression model indicated the village of a fish processor as a determining factor for using the dryer, due to the difference in governance structures, which affected the management of the tent dryers. Adoption was directly affected by poor governance: a top-down approach employed by different stakeholders. Adoption increased in Vinthenga as the fish processors appreciated the solar drying method as faster and less involving. However, small holding capacity of the dryer in Vinthenga resulted in an average usage of 3 times a week (n, 19). Profits from solar-dried fish were slightly insignificant at 20% during peak season (P) and 11% during off-peak season (O), as compared to the traditional methods of which the most profitable were the frying (25% (P) and 21% (O)) and smoking (20% (P) and 19% (O)) methods. Women were involved in all activities in the fisheries’ value chain except for catching fish, which is restricted to men. Gender roles and perceptions affected the socio-economic status of fish processors, as gender equality was contextualised as a monetary responsibility shift to women who were involved in fish processing and other enterprise. All factors considered, the impact of solar tent dryers has been low on the livelihoods of fish processors.


Lake Malawi Solar tent dryers Fish processing Sustainable livelihoods Governance Technology transfer Nkhotakota 


  1. Alkire S, Foster JE, Seth S, Santos ME, Roche JM, Ballon P (2015) Multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison EH, Mvula PM (2002) Fishing livelihoods and fisheries management in Malawi. LADDER Working Paper No 23, Overseas Development Group, Norwich.
  3. Ardjosoediro I, Neven D (2008) The Kenya capture fisheries value chain: An AMAP-FSKG Value Chain Finance Case Study. United States Agency for International Development (USAID), USAGoogle Scholar
  4. Banda et al., (2017). Nutrition, microbial and sensory quality of solar tent dried (Samva Nyengo) and open sun dried C. virginalis (Pisces; cichlidae). International Journal of Marine Sciences, 7(11):96–101Google Scholar
  5. Chiwaula LS, Chirwa GC, Binauli LS, Banda J, Nagoli J (2018) Gender differences in willingness to pay for capital-intensive agricultural technologies: the case of fish solar tent dryers in Malawi. Agric Food Econ 6(1):1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cowen M, Shenton R (1998) Agrarian doctrines of development: Part 1. J Peasant Stud 25:49–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DFID (1999) Sustainable livelihoods guidance sheets. Department for International Development, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Ellis F (1999) Rural livelihood diversity in developing countries: evidence and policy implications. Overseas Development Institute Natural Resource Perspectives, No. 40: Overseas Development instituteGoogle Scholar
  9. Johnson DS (2006) Category, narrative, and value in the governance of small-scale fisheries. Mar Policy 30(6):747–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kambewa P, Mataya B, Sichinga K, Johnson T (2007) Charcoal: the reality-a study of charcoal consumption, trade and production in Malawi. International Institute for Environment and Development, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. LUANAR (2013) Capacity building for managing climate change in Malawi (CABMACC). Programme proposal document. LUANAR, LilongweGoogle Scholar
  12. Matras F, Sidi F, Treinen S (2013) Exchange visits: advice for improving the impact. Good Practice Fact Sheet: West Africa. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)Google Scholar
  13. Matiya G, Wakabayashi Y, Takenouchi N (2005) Factors Influencing the Prices of Fish in Central Region of Malawi and its Implications on the Development of Aquaculture in Malawi. Journal of Applied Sciences, 5:1424–1429Google Scholar
  14. MBERU (2001) Fish in Lake Malawi and other Lakes in Malawi. Accessed on 10 June 2017
  15. Morse S, McNamara N (2013) Sustainable livelihood approach: a critique of theory and practice. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Moyo D (2010) Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Ngochera M, Donda S, Hara M, Berge E (2017) Defragmenting resource management on the southeast arm of Lake Malawi: case of fisheries. Centre for Land Tenure Studies Working Paper 12/17, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, ÅsGoogle Scholar
  18. Odero K (2006) Information capital: 6th asset of sustainable livelihood framework. Discov Innov 18(2):83–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reed M, Courtney P, Urquhart J, Ross N (2013) Beyond fish as commodities: understanding the socio-cultural role of inshore fisheries in England. Mar Policy 37:26–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. SEED Fish (2016) Quarterly Report. Received through email (30 May 2017)Google Scholar
  21. Simpson EH (1949) Measurement of diversity. Nature 163:688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Thompson P, Wailey T, Lummis T (1983) Living the fishing, vol 50. Routledge & Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Urquhart J, Acott T (2013) Constructing ‘The Stade’: fishers’ and non-fishers’ identity and place attachment in Hastings, South-East England. Mar Policy 37:45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. USAID (2015) The importance of wild fisheries for local food security: Malawi. file:///C:/Users/Bruker/Downloads/Malawi_fisheries_profile_cleared_9_29_15_508.pdf. Accessed 7 June 2017.
  25. Yean SY, Pruthiarenun R, Doe P, Motohiro T, Gopakumar K (1998) Dried and smoked Fish products. In: Doe E (ed) Fish drying and smoking: production and quality. CRS Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fundi Wandisunga Kayamba-Phiri
    • 1
  • Gry Synnevåg
    • 1
  • Moses M. Limuwa
    • 1
  1. 1.Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Faculty of Landscape and Society, Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric)ÅsNorway

Personalised recommendations