Fisheries constitutes an important sector in national economic development, and is estimated to contribute 3 percent of the total GDP and 5 percent of the GDP in agriculture. Fish production from aquaculture has been estimated at 950 tonnes for 2004. The contribution of aquaculture to the national economy has, however, not been disaggregated, so its importance is not fully recognized. There is a lack of data and general information relating to aquaculture. For instance, information and data are not available on the exact contribution of aquaculture to food security, employment and poverty alleviation. It has been estimated that the production from ponds and culture-based fisheries is worth about US$ 1.5 million a year.
The aquaculture sub sector comprises largely small-scale subsistence farmers who practice extensive aquaculture in earthen ponds in contrast to the intensive practices of commercial farmers. The sector therefore lacks the organization to take up the challenges of providing inputs such as fish seed and feed as viable commercial activities to support the development of the industry.
Commercial fish farming as a major farming activity is a recent development and has opened up avenues for employment. Most of the commercial establishments produce fish from earthen ponds. There is one cage facility which produces 200 tonnes or 21.1 percent of the total output.
There are several laws to regulate and govern the sector and the government has set up institutions that are responsible for developing fisheries and aquaculture policy and directing and establishing research priorities. The Directorate of Fisheries (DoF) is the lead government agency for aquaculture development and the Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is mandated to carry out aquaculture research. To promote fish farming, imports of farm fish are not allowed.
In the period between 1990 and 2004, the technology of fingerling production improved tremendously. Fingerlings have been produced from concrete tanks and hapas in addition to earthen ponds, as was the practice in the previous years. Although fish seed is still being obtained from the rivers and reservoirs in the remote areas, private commercial entities produce fingerlings of tilapia far in excess of their requirements and are willing to sell the surplus. All-male tilapia culture is becoming widespread.
Fish is produced mainly from earthen ponds and one cage culture establishment in the Volta Lake. There are no marine or brackishwater aquaculture establishments in the country. All the commercial operators grow Oreochromis niloticus. The small-scale operators produce various species in addition to the major species of O. niloticus, Clarias gariepinus and Heterotis niloticus.
The majority of farmers are small-scale operators using extensive fish farming practices. The five commercial operators, two of whom are women, entered the arena in the last five years. They undertake intensive fish farming practices and feed their fish with balanced diets which they prepare themselves. No commercially compounded fish feeds are available for sale due mainly to the lack of patronage.
In 2004 total production from fish farming was 950 tonnes, valued at ¢14.25 billion (US$ 1.5 million) . Average production from culture-based fisheries in the reservoirs is 150 kg/ha/yr. Average production from the ponds of small-scale operators is estimated at 2.5 tonnes/ha/yr and the total value of production by small-scale operators is US$ 0.463 million. The estimated production from the commercial cage culture facility is 200 tonnes/ha/yr valued at US$ 0.316 million. The production from a commercial fish farm of 8.7 hectares was 85 tonnes valued at US$ 0.134 million.
There are five full-time commercial fish farmers, four of whom have earthen pond farms of 10.0, 8.8, 8.7 and 3.1 hectares respectively. The fifth has eight cages, each with a diameter of 15 metres and depth of 4 metres. The fish cage establishment and the 3.1 hectares earthen pond farm are owned and managed by women. The cage facility and one of the commercial earthen pond farms have employed a full-time technician each to manage their technical operations. The technician on the earthen pond facility is a German.
In the same study it was found that about 9 percent of farmers had 1-6 years of education, 10 percent had completed secondary school and 8 percent had been to university, while 10 percent of respondents had no formal education. Male fish farmers were generally better educated than the women. These results could be a reflection of the situation and characteristics of fish farmers in the whole country.
The upper east and western regions are dry (Vanden Bossche et al., 1990), as is the northern region. Fish farming is only possible at irrigation sites in these three regions. Culture based fisheries is, however, possible in the numerous reservoirs in the three regions. In 1991 a district-wise assessment by FAO of the availability of land, water and rice bran and the economics of organic manure (cattle, pig, poultry) as criteria for the viability of fish farming development found that parts of the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern, Western, Central and Volta regions were suitable. The farming units are very small and highly dispersed. Pond sizes vary from 15 m2 to about 0.48 hectares.
Suitable aquaculture sites are not concentrated but dispersed throughout the southern and middle belts of the country. Most of them depend on seepage of water from the pond bottom to fill the ponds. As a result the pond bottom cannot be dried fully before the next culture of fish, which adversely affects production.
The only cage culture facility in the country has 8 cages, each with a diameter of 15 m, and depth of 4 m. Each cage is stocked with 50 000 fingerlings of O. niloticus at 30 g which are cultured for six months. No production figures are available to the public.
The O. niloticus is endemic and is the only species of tilapia being supplied by hatcheries. The transferred GIFT (Genetically Improved farmed Tilapia) fish that was imported from Thailand is restricted to one commercial farm and the owner is not allowed to supply others.
Genetically improved species are only important on commercial farms. Private small-scale farmers are not appreciative of improved breeds. The case of Lates niloticus as a species for regular culture is under investigation by the Water Research Institute (WRI). Observations indicate that the Lates niloticus responds to routine feeding and can be cultured in captivity. There is a project aimed at breeding and selecting genetically improved strains of the Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) for enhanced culture and higher productivity. The polyculture of tilapia and prawns, and grey mullets and the North African catfish are some of the current research interests of WRI (CSIR/ WRI 2003).
One commercial fish farmer was permitted to import the gift fish (O. niloticus). There were two imports of red and black swim up fries from Thailand, each a consignment of 108 000. This farm produces about 70 tonnes of tilapia a year.
Molluscs, crustaceans and plants are not cultured in Ghana.
Tilapia fish seed is often obtained from less desirable sources such as fish production ponds of colleague farmers that have not been drained for several years; other common sources are reservoirs and rivers. These fingerlings are of very poor quality. The tilapia in production ponds which could not be caught in the net during harvesting because of their stunted growth are used as fingerlings. Fish caught as fingerlings from rivers and reservoirs are either mature or of poor genetic quality and health or are undesirable species.
However, there are now a few up and coming small-scale seed producers who are turning out good quality seeds of both tilapia and the North African catfish from hatcheries.Many of the small-scale farmers use organic manure to fertilize their ponds. Poultry droppings are the most typical organic manure used. Some farmers have integrated pig rearing into their operations. Such integrated fish and animal rearing techniques are yet to gain popularity in the country. The use of artificial fertilizers is quite minimal due to its high cost. For instance, 50 kg bags of NPK and urea cost ¢185 000 (US$ 20.11) and ¢215 000 (US$ 23.37) respectively.
Commercial fish farmers only produce tilapia and use their own fingerlings. In three cases, the fingerlings are produced as a result of crosses in concrete tanks. The fries are recovered from the tanks and reared to 10 g for stocking. In the fourth case, the parent tilapias are held in hapas in earthen ponds. The fertilized eggs are recovered from the mouth of the female and incubated in re-circulating troughs. In the cage culture facility, the fingerlings are produced in on-shore concrete tanks and reared on-shore until they reach a weight of 10 g before they are stocked in the cages. They use very balanced feeds and follow excellent management practices. However they refused to disclose their feed composition when approached for information. The cage facility is the largest production unit in the country and has an annual yield (production) of about 200 tonnes. The second largest production unit is a pond facility which produces about 70 tonnes per annum.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Ghana according to FAO statistics:
The most important domestic market and consumption centre is Accra, the capital of Ghana. Other important centres are Kumasi, Tarkwa, Tema and Sekondi-Takoradi. Neither farmed fish products nor fish seed are exported from Ghana because production is low.
The main species cultivated are the Oreochromis niloticus and Clarias gariepinus. Other species of tilapia are also harvested since some of the ponds are stocked with species of fish found in rivers and reservoirs, such as Heterotis niloticus. Fish are sold fresh at the farms, and any unsold stocks are fried or salted and dried and sold later. Fish 'mammies' may also buy the fish in bulk from the farms and retail it in the towns. Data on quantities that are sold as fried or salted and dried fish is not available.
In one fish farming community called Kadjebi, the fish farmers association (FFA) began by opening a sales outlet in the town and employed a sales assistant to run it. The fish was kept in a deep freezer in the shop. Each fish farmer paid a fee for this service. Another FFA at Tarkwa is replicating this service by embarking on the construction of an EU funded cold store for the sale of fish to the public. These direct sales of fish by the associations are attempts to cut out the fish 'mammies' who make a large profit by buying the fish very cheaply from the farmer, and selling at a high mark up to the public. Tilapia, for instance, costs about ¢15 000 (US$ 1.63)/kg in the rural areas compared to the ¢35 000 (US$ 3.800)/kg in Accra. The fish is sold fresh and as a whole product to the public. It is put on ice if it has to be carried from one town to the other provided ice is available.
At present, farmed fish is neither labelled nor certified, but live ornamental fish exports require a health certificate. Live fish imports must be labelled and accompanied by a health certificate from a competent officer of the government in the country of origin and are quarantined on arrival. In Ghana a DoF veterinary surgeon, also trained in fish health, is in charge of this function. These measures are aimed at preventing the import or export of diseases.
Although the majority of farmers are small-scale operators several fish farmers consider fish farming as a source of income and fish produced are sold as opposed to being consumed by the fish farmer's family. Aquaculture also provides labour for family members and neighbours (FAO, 2005). Other opportunities for value-addition that have been identified include fish processing, such as frying, salting and smoking, which is done in the villages. The DoF has also trained 17 pond construction gangs across the country, each consisting of ten members, to construct ponds for a fee. Each gang was provided with a set of hand tools (such as pick axe, spade, mattock, measuring tape and spirit level) to facilitate its work.
The DoF is responsible for the implementation of fisheries policies and programmes. It is responsible for facilitating increased fish production from both marine and inland waters and from aquaculture for domestic consumption, promoting export of fish and reducing the current dependence on fish imports.
Until January 2005, the DoF was part of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, as one of several Directorates under the Minister. It was part of a unified agricultural extension system. In this system, all sectors of agriculture (Crop Services, Veterinary Services, Animal Production, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services) including the Fisheries Services, were represented at the farmer contact level by a single person known as the agricultural extension agent (AEA). This AEA was expected to have the technical proficiency to direct all types of farmers on how to find solutions to their problems. Fisheries extension was very weak because training in aquaculture and fisheries was not part of the curriculum of the agricultural colleges. The structure of the new MOF has not yet been worked out in detail.
However, the Government has taken several steps to support and accelerate aquaculture development. The measures which are directed at fish farmers in general include:
The MOF does not offer credit to fish farmers. However, credit is available at the commercial banks for those they consider credit worthy. The MOF promoted the formation of fish farmers associations (FFAs) with the aim of making them service providers to fish farmers in general. The FFAs are expected to play an advocacy role for the farmers, organize inputs such as seeds, procure credit and make arrangements to market their produce at advantageous prices. To support the growth of the FFAs, the Government gave them each a D6 bulldozer on hire purchase basis for the construction of ponds. This is to be repaid over a period of seven years. The purchase of the bulldozers was the result of the strong lobbying of Government by the executives of the FFAs. Although the Fifes have not yet developed to the extent of demonstrating sufficient self-regulatory characteristics, one of them has been able to organize elections in which the executives were re-elected according to the provisions of their constitution.
In exercise of the powers conferred on the Minister responsible for the environment under section 28 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1994 (Act 490) i.e. L.I. 1652, and on the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency Board, regulations were made for the conduct and submission of environmental reports and impact statements. Schedule 2, regulation 3 of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999, prescribes land-based aquaculture as one of the undertakings for which an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is mandatory. In the same legislative instrument, schedule 5, regulation 30(2) contains the provisions to regulate the activities associated with fish cage culture. It characterizes water trapped for domestic purposes, water within controlled and/or protected areas and that water which supports wildlife and fishery activities as environmentally sensitive areas the use of which is governed by EIAs.
The Food and Drugs Law, 1992, prohibits the sale of unwholesome, poisonous or adulterated and unnatural substances and lays down penalties for breaching the law.
A major role of the Government is policy development for setting research priorities and allocating funds. International donors provide funds for certain research activities and farmers give their suggestions through the research extension linkage committees. A private commercial fish farmer even serves on the WRI management board. On-farm participatory research in Integrated Agriculture Aquaculture (IAA) is in vogue. Current on-farm trials are on feed.
The results from research activities are verified through field trials in collaboration with the DoF, and transmitted through the DoF at meetings and workshops where farmers and representatives from the WRI are also present.
The WRI is the only aquaculture research institution in the country, although the universities also carry out some research into aquaculture. There are no private research institutions. Training in aquaculture is available at three universities and an agricultural college (see Table 1). None of the technical schools in the country offers aquaculture training.
Table 1. Government institutions associated with aquaculture research and training.
The Directorate of Fisheries was a division of MOFA, and part of the former Department of Fisheries. It is now located in the MOF and has been the technical department in charge of aquaculture planning. Aquaculture plans have therefore been initiated and finalized by DoF in consultation with stakeholders and other aquaculture related institutions.
Until 1997, aquaculture extension was the responsibility of the Directorate of Fisheries. Later it was assigned to the generalist AEAs as a result of the political decentralization of government machinery including MOFA. Because the AEAs had no training in aquaculture, several aquaculture-related activities such as data collection and collation, site selection and supervision of pond construction deteriorated in quality.
Until 2000, aquaculture administration, planning and development was overseen by a deputy minister of MOFA who worked under the Minister of Food and Agriculture. Between 2000 and 2005, a minister of state for fisheries within MOFA was in charge of aquaculture. In January 2005, a full minister of cabinet status and within a new Ministry of Fisheries took charge of fisheries and of aquaculture development.
These sectoral changes in the structure of the administration of fisheries and aquaculture came together with the increasing importance of fish to the economy of Ghana. Fish is classified as a non-traditional export (NTE) commodity of Ghana. It is the second most important NTE after horticultural products and makes up 5 percent of total NTEs. The share of fish and seafoods within non-traditional agricultural export products increased from 25 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2001 (ISSER, 2003). With respect to national economic development, increasing trends in fish exports reflect a major advance in the pursuit of national non-traditional export policy objectives (Mensah et al., 2003).
World Bank funding from 1997 to 2003 for the fisheries sector brought about a strong emphasis on the development of FFAs so that they could provide certain services to their members. Stronger support came in the form of the purchase of D6 Bulldozers on hire purchase to the FFAs, which are ahead of schedule in paying back the loan. The FAO/TCP/2904(T) carried this further by strengthening the organizational capacity of the FFAs. The FFAs were trained in how to keep records of their technical and financial operations, group dynamics and the requirements for preparing business plans as well as in aquaculture techniques. Eight members of the FFAs were trained as hatchery operators. Two of them are doing well and are producing fingerlings of the North African catfish. These initiatives have had a positive influence on aquaculture development. They are reducing the dependence of the small-scale farmer on the Government for services and inputs.
Gangs of youth are being trained to construct ponds for farmers in order to reduce the cost of pond construction. Hitherto the ponds were constructed without drainage outlets which led to lower yields. It is significant to note that drainable ponds are the main products of the gangs. Seventeen gangs have been trained so far.
Fish farmers are responsible for marketing their produce. There are no price control restrictions. All harvests are sold locally.
The national fish requirement has grown from 676 000 tonnes in 1995 to 840 000 tonnes in 2004, but production has not increased appreciably during the same period. The deficit between fish requirement and production – it was 400 000 tonnes in 2004 – has been the main driving force for pushing the agenda of developing aquaculture.
The reasons for developing aquaculture have remained the same. Aquaculture was promoted to produce fish for human consumption, industrial use and for export. A strong emphasis has been placed on fish culture and culture based fisheries in reservoirs. Imports of farmed fish have been prohibited. Imports and exports of fish are regulated and require a permit. Importers pay a fish importation levy of ¢20 000 (US$ 2.17) per tonne. This goes into the Fisheries Development Fund and is used solely for the development of fisheries, including aquaculture.
Small-scale operators have not gone through any environmental impact assessment (EIA), but all commercial operators have, reflecting the strong sector influence of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ghana. Research on several aspects of aquaculture is being undertaken. For instance, the health status of the ponds of some small-scale operators is being analysed and the results are being communicated to the farmers. Disease causing organisms found in some of them include Myxosporidia (Boil disease), Piscicola sp. (Leech), Trichodina sp. (Trichodiiasis) and Ichthyophthirius sp. (White spot). Research and documentation of the genetic characteristics of O. niloticus from the Volta Lake are also being carried out with a view to selecting fast growing strains for aquaculture.
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