Over the past decade, Ghana’s tilapia farming has experienced tremendous growth in production, contributing to improved incomes for the industry and animal protein for consumers, according to a 2018 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
But losses of over 100 tonnes of cage-farmed fish in the Lake Volta region in recent months highlight the serious challenges Ghana faces in securing and expanding upon this growth.
“Aquaculture is critical for food and jobs as we face dwindling fish production and supply from the capture fisheries,” said Michael Arthur-Dadzie, executive director of the Fisheries Commission. To build upon recent growth, international and local research institutes have formed a partnership with private hatcheries and the government’s Fisheries Commission to launch a new project aimed at improving tilapia seed.
Research has shown that the recent growth in tilapia farming in Ghana is largely due to four factors: an improved local Akosombo strain developed and released in 2005, government’s policy support initiatives, improved management practices and technologies at hatcheries and production levels, and finally, availability of high-quality feeds locally.
However, fish diseases (e.g., Streptococcus bacteria in 2014 and Tilapia Lake Virus in 2018), likely caused by poor management practices, seasonal poor water quality, and illegal imports of foreign Tilapia strains, are causing high mortalities of tilapia in some sections of Lake Volta.
Titled, “Accelerating aquaculture development in Ghana through sustainable Nile Tilapia seed production and dissemination,” (TiSeed in short) the project was launched at the Water Research Institute, (WRI), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in Accra.
The 3-year project, which runs from 2019 to 2022, focuses on tilapia seed improvement and is being implemented by a consortium of international and local research institutes, led by IFPRI, supported by the CSIR-WRI, KIT Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands, and WorldFish. Other partners are Fisheries Commission (a government institution) and two private hatcheries (S-HOINT Ltd. and Crystal Lake Ltd.).
“Breeding and research in aquaculture have stalled in Ghana, resulting in poor quality seeds and low farm productivity and profitability. IFPRI and its partners have been awarded this research grant to help the country improve the fundamental issues in the tilapia seed system,” said Catherine Ragasa, Project Lead and Research Fellow at IFPRI.
“We bring diverse and complementary expertise into the project: from breeding, hatchery management, fish health, food safety, water quality, and seed distribution to information and communication technology (ICT), sociology, and economics to promote sustainable and profitable tilapia production. We also plan to rigorously test and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of different approaches in fish seed distribution and extension services”
Seth Koranteng Agyakwah, Officer-in-Charge at the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (ARDEC) of CSIR-WRI, and the lead of the local consortium partners in Ghana, added that the project will “help in generating and disseminating scientific data on the quality of tilapia seed, monitoring and coordinating the industry players, and assessing and developing new and much-improved tilapia strains that are productive, safe, resilient, and disease-resistant”.
The Director of CSIR-WRI, Mike Osei-Atweneboana also added that the project “is timely as we face serious challenges in the sector that has huge potential for development”.
The project will be working with key players in the industry, who were also present during the pre-proposal and launch meetings, including Raanan Fish Feed West Africa Ltd., Aller Aqua Feed Ghana Ltd., Ghana Aquaculture Association, National Fish Pond Farmers Association, Flosell Farms, West African Fish Ltd., National Aquaculture Technical Committee, the Environmental Protection Agency, among others. The project is a research grant funded by the Government of Netherlands and the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH).
The project aims to improve and monitor tilapia seed quality, increase productivity (by 20% for cage and 15% for pond), and reduce fingerling mortality rate by 50% for at least 400 small-scale pond and cage farmers (including women and youth) in Volta, Eastern, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo (as pilot regions) at the end of the project.
In his final comments, Michael Arthur-Dadzie noted that “While the focus is on tilapia seed and the research grant is modest, this project has a huge potential to attract greater interest in the sector from donors and investors, and that the availability of improved scientific data will provide a foundation for policy and regulatory reforms in Ghana. The Fisheries Commission is committed to take up the recommendations of the study and lessons from the project into our operations.”