Feature Article of Sunday, 8 January 2012
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
1st January 2012
The importance of agriculture in national development cannot be over emphasized. Before the Industrial Revolution began in 1750 in Britain, it had been preceded by the Agricultural Revolution. Industrialization without agriculture is a total disaster and failure. It is agriculture which provides food for the masses, raw materials for factories, capital for other businesses and cash crops for export. A country which is not self sufficient in her food needs is heading for doom and a dependency syndrome. Right now in Ghana, we have all the fertile land and resources to meet our food needs, yet we depend on massive food imports such as rice, wheat, livestock products, fruits and fish. In this write up, I will focus mainly on fish farming.
According to available statistics, Ghana’s annual fish import stands at a whopping 2 million dollars with annual demand of 880,000 tonnes out of which only 42,000 tonnes is produced locally. Cooperating partners such as the World Bank, EU, China, WFP and FAO are promoting aquaculture in Ghana to address this unpardonable deficit. According to the WHO, Ghana’s Life Expectancy has fallen from 63 and 68 years for males and females respectively to 54years and 62 years respectively, due to poor diet, malnutrition, poor lifestyles, lack of exercise, among other factors. On average, each person in Ghana needs 38 kilograms of fish per year.
What is fish farming? It is the process of breeding fish in ponds in large numbers for commercial purposes. This is where fish farmers create artificial ponds or water enclosures in which they keep species of fish which have capacity to spawn and breed in large numbers. Fishes which are kept in this way are fed with nutrients. The water in which they breed must be of a certain depth, temperature, underwater topology such as having some sand, mud, stones and rocks, algae, coral, seaweed, among others. The fishes to be bred have to be carefully selected after much research, to know their breeding patterns, mating season and their susceptibilities and sensitivities. In Ghana, breams or tilapia, catfish or mudfish, prawns, crabs and shellfish can successfully be bred. It is incumbent on our university professors to disseminate their findings through the Extension Services of the Ministry of Agriculture to encourage budding entrepreneurs to take to fish farming. Fish farming can be practised in any part of Ghana, be they hinterland or the coastal areas. The Ministry of Agriculture should stock inputs such as fingerlings, feed and other paraphernalia for those wishing to take to the trade.
Some time ago in the 70s, Gen Kutu Acheampong launched Operation Feed Yourself (OFY) AMD Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). We need such high profile campaigns at the highest political level to sensitize the population, to help overcome our chronic protein deficiency in Ghana. I make bold to recommend the following measures:-
1. Let people grow all kinds of legumes such as beans, groundnuts, soyabeans, black- eyed beans, bambara beans, butternut beans, among others.
2. Every household should raise their own chickens, goats, rabbits, grasscutters and guinea fowls for domestic consumption.
3. All boarding schools should be made to keep their own livestock and supply most of their vegetables, fruits and fish needs.
4. Special low interest or concessionary loans should be given to those interested in undertaking large scale fish farming and livestock production.
5. The punishment for those stealing livestock should be made stiffer to deter would-be perpetrators.
6. Agricultural Extension Services should be increased in tempo and made accessible to all.
7. More research should be conducted by our research institutions to identify which fishes are amenable to fish farming on a large scale. In the 60s we used to have bumper catch of herrings, mackerel, pilchards, and other pelagic fish found on the surface in large shoals.
8. Institute fishing ban during the spawning season and control overfishing by banning the use of small fishing net meshes or the use of chemicals and explosives for fishing.
9. Intensify patrols of our territorial waters as foreign trawlers are responsible for depleting our fish stocks, especially Tuna.
10. Introduce fishing courses in our polytechnics and universities so that fishing is recognized as a profession.
11. Encourage the formation of more fishing cooperatives so that they can easily source assistance from the banks and the Ministry of Agriculture.
12. Award a lot of scholarships to our graduating students to go abroad and understudy fish farming in some of the advanced countries to bring back the knowledge.
13. In the future, consider banning the importation of fish, livestock products and others when we are sufficiently covered by our own local stocks.
14. Establish fish processing industries to process excess fish during bumper harvest.
15. Encourage drip irrigation to conserve water.
16. Introduce hydroponics or science of growing crops on water such as cultivation of tomatoes on water bodies.