After working for Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Nana Kweku Siaw acquired a farm at Anwomaso, not far from Domeabra to venture into aquaculture, which perhaps many people do not consider lucrative.
In 1998, he decided to relocate the farm to Domeabra, because he needed a more spacious field to expand his activities. And step by step, he started the construction of fishponds and developed new activities until he came to have a farm of 10 hectares, employing an average of 15 workers.
The labour and hard work paid off soon, despite the initial start-up challenges. In 1999, Nana Kweku Siaw was awarded as the ‘Best Regional Fish Farmer, Ashanti Region’ and also went ahead to receive the ‘Gold Award in Aquaculture,’ in 2004, at the First Atlantic Excellence Awards organised under the auspices of the Manhyia Palace.
In an interview with Nana Kweku Siaw, during a visit to some of the fish farming communities, in the Ashanti region, it became evident that the story looks so different from when he started initially. With a firm commitment and desire to press on, the many years of work have brought progress, notwithstanding the lifelong challenges that the sector faces.
With steady business growth, Nana Kwaku Siaw, the Chief Executive Officer of Kumah Farms, now has a production of about 26 ponds, where catfish and tilapia are the primary focus. He has a hatching site, where the fingerlings are separated before they are transported to the ponds for the final maturity stage and production process.
Aquaculture production requires dams, ponds, dugout and small resolvers. “It is very expensive for someone to to erect all these before getting into aquaculture production,” he said. Although it is a lucrative venture, it is too costly. According to him, the cost of feeding the fingerlings and the fish as well as the logistics and equipment to properly care for them is very expensive and hard to come by.
Nana Siaw said if government could waive the taxes on imported aquatic materials it will go a long way to enable fish farmers to enhance their production and output. He noted that many of the fish farmers lack logistics like pH meter used to determine the level of air in the water, based in the pH.
He therefore wants the government to extend some support to those in the fish farming business instead of channelling all the support to those in the marine fishing.
But notwithstanding these development, it is clear that many Ghanaians are steadily taking keen interest in aquaculture business as its marine and freshwater fish stock are dwindling.
Some experts say the cause of the situation is partly due to climate change impact, and the depletion of other essential aquatic resources as a result of harmful human activities.
However, fish remains an important source of protein among many Ghanaians as well as being one of the country’s most important non-traditional export commodities. And its depletion will be a serious scare.
It was estimated that in 2012, there was a demand of 968,000 tonnes of fish to meet the country’s fish consumption. But annual production for that year was 486,000 tonnes, representing about 50.2% of the estimated quantity. In 2014, fish consumption was estimated to be a million metric tonnes, more than the 900,000 metric tonnes consumed in 2013.
However, given the large deficit in fish production in the country, it is noted that about half of the fish consumed locally are imported as local fish producers struggle to meet demand.
According to an article by the Business & Financial Times, “in 2015, only 400,000 metric tonnes was supplied from the country’s catches at sea and through aquaculture production, with the rest being imported at a cost of about USD 200 million every year”.
The article further indicated that “to reverse the situation, government would have to streamline land acquisition processes for aquaculture development, resolve electricity challenges, and block the charging of illegal fees by various assemblies, among others”.
It is against this backdrop and others that Nana Kweku Siaw said it is time government brought its attention to aquaculture fish production in the country. He said within every three months close to GHS 5,000 is spent on 1000 tonnes of fingerlings to produce the catfish and tilapia. He called for a firm policy guideline to grow and sustain the local aquaculture industry instead of spending huge sums of money to import fish strain into the country.
But as some local fish farmers wait to see how these government support could transform the aquaculture industry, others continue in their own little way hoping to leap forward.
Article by Richmond Frimpong and Kizito Cudjoe.
Richmond Frimpong is the deputy news editor at fox 97.9 FM and National President of Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association.
Kizito is an online editor for Gardja, and Ashanti regional correspondent of Business and Financial Times.