Notes to broadcasters
Aquaculture is defined as the production of plants, animals, or both in a controlled aquatic environment. Fish farming is a major component of aquaculture.
The conditions for aquaculture are good in Ghana. The climate is ideal for raising tilapia and many other species, water quantity and quality are outstanding, there is an abundant labour force, and the country has enough agricultural resources to supply a large fish feed industry.
In the past, people in some parts of Ghana relied heavily on fishing for sustenance. But natural sources of fish have largely disappeared because of a variety of causes, including overfishing, using inappropriate fishing gear, deforestation and degradation of watersheds, climate change, urban development and destruction of water bodies. Ghana produces only about 50% of its fish demand, so there is a great potential for local farmers to fill this shortfall with farmed fish.
There are two challenges to making aquaculture a reality in Ghana: the lack of readily available tilapia fingerlings and the lack of readily available, standardized and affordable pelleted fish feed.
There is a limited supply of tilapia fingerlings available in Ghana, and the fingerlings are quite expensive. According to some sources, the price of fingerlings can be as high as 40% of the price of a mature fish. This high cost and the resulting low profit limits farmers’ enthusiasm for fish farming.
But Ghana is introducing a program to make fingerlings available year-round in large quantities, at a cost of between 2% and 7% of the price of mature fish. This will change the dynamics of fish farming dramatically.
Currently, commercial fish food is imported to West Africa from South America, the Middle East or Asia. The high cost of these imports places them out of reach of most small-scale farmers in Ghana, who substitute local feed made from palm oil residue and cassava peelings. These are low-nutrient materials, and result in poor quality and inconsistent fish production.
The script is based on an interview with Mr. Peter Opoku, a fish farmer from Mankranso, in the Ashanti Region of central Ghana, and Professor Stephen Amisah, Dean of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University. It addresses both of the challenges mentioned here in the Notes.
You might choose to present this script as part of your regular farming program, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use this script as research material or as inspiration for creating your own programming on fish farming in your country.
Talk to fish farmers and aquaculture experts. You might ask them:
What are the market opportunities for producing and selling fish in your community, region or country?
What are the major production and marketing challenges, and what solutions have farmers found to address these challenges?
Estimated running time: 20-25 minutes, with intro and outro music.
Fish farming can be a profitable venture for farmers. But problems like lack of fish feed and the unavailability of fingerlings in local markets have prevented farmers in Ghana from getting the full benefit of raising fish.
Today, we will hear how some farmers are cashing in on fish farming. We will speak with two people: Mr. Opoku Peter, a farmer from Mankranso in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, and Professor Stephen Amisah, Dean of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources and Department of Fisheries at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
Mr. Peter Opoku lives in Mankranso with his family. He has four children. He grows crops like maize, cassava, rice, and plantain and he raises fish. He also raises sheep, goats and poultry. Mr. Opoku farms on about 20 acres of land close to his house in the community. He uses the proceeds from the farm to feed the family and to cater for their other needs. As a family head, he has to attend funeral every Saturday and pay his contribution to the extended family. He says he covers all these needs with income from the farm.
Our reporter Kwabena Agyei visited Mr. Peter Opoku in Mankranso.SFX: FARM SOUNDS, SOUND OF RAIN.
Mr. Opoku is wearing Wellington boots with farm clothes. The ground is muddy and slippery. I have to remove my shoes and wade through the water and mud. Frogs and toads jump everywhere as we walk towards the fish ponds. There are five ponds in all, close to a stream that has overflown its banks due to continuous rainfall over the past weeks. There are other farmers cultivating rice around the ponds. You can hear the croaking of frogs everywhere. I ask the farmer how he started raising fish.
At that time, a friend visited me here on the farm and suggested that I use this land for a business which was becoming profitable in the country. I wondered what kind of business waterlogged land could be good for. But the friend told me the land was suitable for fish farming. At first, I did not like the idea. But now I am enjoying the proceeds.
The trench had filled up with water by the time we finished digging it. A fish farmer advised me to drain the water from the pond and remove all pieces of wood, dead insects, reptiles and leaves from the water.
After a week, the pond was full again. I was advised to wait about three weeks before putting fingerlings in the pond. They said this would allow the mud to settle and air to pass over the water in the pond so that a harmful substance from cut tree roots around the pond would not affect the fish.
After three weeks, the water was clear and you could see the bottom of the pond. This showed that the water was clean enough for fish.
Do you see how the banks of the pond are slanted away from the pond? This is to prevent the banks from caving in and polluting the water. The pipe here at the corner of the pond is to drain excess water out of the pond so the fish cannot escape if the pond overflows. I grew grasses around the pond to prevent erosion of the banks.
I did not have the money to buy compounded feed from the store. So I mixed maize and rice chaff with grated fish. It was not good feed, but I had no other option. The compounded feed from the store was selling for 100 Ghana cedis ($35 US) for a 50-kilo bag. One bag is enough to feed 1000 fingerlings for three days.
But my local feed did not make the fish grow well. I wanted to harvest them after nine months but they were too small to sell well. I had to leave them for another nine months. Out of the 1000 I initially added to the pond, I sold about 750 after 18 months. I got a little profit, apart from lots of fish that I ate myself, and those I gave to friends and family members. But I got hooked on fish farming from that first trial.
Another issue is the inability of farmers to access credit to start the farm.
Also, most farmers establish farms without considering access to markets. This leads to low fish prices during harvest.
There is a lack of adequate information about aquaculture. Extension officers are not specifically trained on aquaculture. They are trained in general agriculture and they try to extrapolate their knowledge in agriculture into aquaculture. But the two are quite different.
For example, if one tries to apply the feeding regime of goats or sheep or poultry to fish, there will surely be a problem.
But it can be difficult to buy fingerlings of sex-reversed fish. Also, sometimes the fingerlings may not be one hundred percent sex-reversed when you put them in ponds, they start reproducing and soon the whole pond is full of tiny fish. So farmers need buy fingerlings from approved sources.
Another issue is that,from time to time, farmers need to dispose of the effluent from ponds. Some fish farms release effluent directly into a stream which may be a source of drinking water for a downstream community. Farmers must lay effluent pipes at the bottom of the ponds. These pipes have a tap. The farmer opens the tap periodically so that effluent can be piped into a pit built to hold the effluent.
One of the most serious challenges farmers are facing now is the import of cheap, low-quality tilapia from China. Although they are banned, they still find their way into the country.
Let us listen again to Mr. Opoku Peter as he tells us more about how he became a successful fish farmer.
In 2010, I financed the construction of three additional ponds. Officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture advised me how to construct the ponds. I hired an excavator for the digging. The three ponds are 100 by 100 feet square.
Hiring an excavator was effective but costly. It cost 1,500 Ghana Cedis (about $405 US) for each pond. This is high for most farmers. In fact, I used the money from selling the fish from the first harvest to finance this construction.
With four ponds filled with 10,000 fingerlings, I had to feed them well so that they could grow at the appropriate rate.
I am now able to pay my children’s school fees with the income from fish farming.
Also, fish feed is difficult to get. It is imported, and is too expensive for most local small-scale farmers. This makes farmers resort to using unapproved local feeds made up of household leftovers. This can be harmful to the fish.
Regular cleaning of the ponds is also difficult. There is no equipment for cleaning or discharging fish effluent effectively. So the pond is sometimes not cleaned for a long time, and this can affect the quality and quantity of the fish.
Nets for harvesting are also difficult to find. You have to travel to the coast to buy them.
One of our biggest problems is the influx of tilapia from China. Fish farmers do not have a real problem with marketing in Ghana. But since the import of tilapia from China, our market prospects have gone down. Although the government has banned the import of tilapia, some still find their way into the country.
I use about 10 acres of land for the fish ponds and the other crops. In fact, I am doing mixed farming. My wife and children help me in all the activities on the farm. My children feed the fish and tend the ponds while I go to the farm to tend the crops. This has helped to reduce the cost of farming. But I sometimes hire additional hands to help me on the farm.
We have an association of fish farmers in the region. I have attended many workshops that have helped me learn new ways of tending the fish. I have also learnt record keeping for all my farm activities. I keep records of the amount of feed I give to the fish and I monitor the water quality and other safety measures of the fish and the ponds. I check the fishes’ weight as they grow. I also keep records of my income and expenditures. This helped me to secure a loan from a credit union so I could purchase some equipment for the farm.
My dear listener, this is where we will end our discussion. I will meet you again on (name of radio station) next week. My name is (name of host). Bye for now.
Contributed by: Kwabena Agyei, Program Officer, Farm Radio International Ghana.
Reviewed by: Steve Amisah, Associate Professor, Department of Fisheries and Watershed Management, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
Peter Opoku, August 20, 2014
Professor Stephen Amisah, August 18, 2014
Augustine K. Opoku, MOFA, Kumasi Metro, August 19, 2014
Samuel Ayobi, MOFA, Mankranso, August 19, 2014
Kofi Takyi, fish farmer, Techiman, Brong Ahafo, August 20, 2014
Stephen Appiagyei, fish farmer, Techiman, August 20, 2014
Thomas A Tei, fish farmer, Akuse, Eastern Region, August 27, 2014. By phone.
Nana Siaw, fish farmer, Ahomaso, Ashanti, August 10, 2014.
Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)