Currently fish farming has been touted as a promising economic activity in light of limits to sustainable sea catch, and Ghana’s nutrition needs. The country’s total fish requirement stands at 88,000 metric tonnes but only 4, 200 metric tonnes of fish is produced. Subsequently, there is always a deficit as supply cannot meet demand. Ghana imports $200,000,000 annually to make up for the annual deficit, and aquaculture could produce enough fish to offset the deficit of about 400,000 metric tons of the country’s fish requirements. With regards to this development, political leaders, traditional rulers and experts have made a clarion call to the public to venture into fish farming business. However, inadequate intensive extension delivery, irregular formal and informal farmer training resulting in appropriate pond site selection, good pond engineering practices, lack of quality fingerling supplies, inefficient feeding, improper management of ponds and difficult access to market continue to remain challenges which bulwark fish farmers from attaining maximum economic returns for their investment in the business. Against this background, Farmerline’s Best Management Practices delivery services in local languages to fish farmers in Ghana through their mobile phones is seem as the future for profit oriented fish farming.
During Farmerline monitoring field visit to a number of fish farms in Ashanti region of Ghana found out that, most fish farmers were experiencing poor fish farming practices. In light of this, fish farmers could not hide the expression of their excitement after receiving the Best Management Practices services from Farmerline on our field visits. Of course, some farmers were doing well in one or two areas with regards to Best Management Practices but not all. Mr. James Owusu Sekyere; a fish farmer at Asamang in the Ashanti region of Ghana expressed his regret and disappointed in fish farming this way” All my fish after one year of rearing were all swept away by the rainfall”. The challenge with Mr. Owusu’s farm could be attributed to poor site location.
Mr. Mohammed Issah; fish farmer at Kodie in the Kwabre district of Ashanti region constructed his pond in a well sited location but had challenges with feeding regime. According to him, giving more and frequent feed is the only way to ensure fast growth of the fish. He said, “When I started I was dumping the feed to my ponds” until the workshop organized by USAID Aquafish (one of our content development partners), then I realized I had “thrown all my money into the water in the form of feed, all this while”. Avoidance of feed wastes saves cost and contributes to farm profitability (Engle and Valderrama, 2004). Therefore, quality feed and proper feeding lead to improved pond water quality and reduced production cost. In what seemed to be a big relief for him, he described Farmerline mobile-based BMPs as “timely and very helpful”.
Mr. Ben Williams Oppong; a fish farmer at Ashanti Mampong expressing his frustration said” I returned from outside, I sold my car, constructed the pond, and stocked it with more tilapia (both male and female). Later, I realized they were becoming too small in weight and overpopulated after two months. I took some of the tilapia into another pond and then brought in catfish to check the population. Now, more than one year, all my money has gone into feed. I am having difficulty in accessing market to sell my fish. So I have decided to consider them as pet. Now all that I need from Farmerline is market access to sell my fish.”
Mr. Osei Yaw Johnson whose Fish farm is at Agona; Ashanti region appreciated Farmerline by saying “I was happy when I received a call from farmerline giving us information on best management practices.” He described Farmerline’s services as needful to fish farmers. He disclosed that “I have lost interest in fish farming because I do not see whether am making profit or not. My future in fish farming business now is not certain.”
We also realized that more farms in Eschem, kodie, Mampong and Asonomaso communities and others have more than one year raised catfish and tilapia still in their ponds due to inadequate BMPs and the lack of access to market their fish. Recent studies by (Yaw et al., 2012), confirmed that Ghanaian fish farmers have complained about the lack of a ready market for produced fish, causing lost revenue. What is unfortunate about this situation is that, more money goes to feeding, labor, time and energy and other resources that these farmers could have invested into other productions.
Nana Baffour Gyekye; a traditional ruler of Asonomaso and a fish farmer said” I have applied all the knowledge received from the various workshop, together with the Best Management Practices From farmerline to them (catfish and tilapia). Now what is important is market for my tilapia and catfish.”
Mr. lazarus Arure whose farm is in Eschem; Ashanti region hinted Farmerline “We are likely to become bad testimonies to others who would want to venture fish farming, if we do not receive intensive extension delivery.”
The reasons for poor market access range from mode of transportation of harvested fish to distant buyers, lack of storage facilities and post-harvest processing, just to mention a few. Mr. Osei Yaw Johnson (fish farmer; Agona) suggested that Government and other stakeholders should invest in building storage facilities where all harvested fish could be kept and later sold or processed to add some value. He said “Most of them cede to any prize because they have no place of storage and if they “prove stubborn”, their last option would be to share their harvest with family members.” This was also consistent with the recommendation of Yaw et al.,( 2012), considering the high demand for fish in Ghana, it is obvious that an improvement in transportation and cold storage facilities will lead to rapid and year-round sales of fish. This will result in the lowering of the price of fish and increase the quantity of fish sold.
Knowledge as they say is power and the lack of it is the root of all frustration, regrets and disappointment in any business endeavor. In recognition of the challenges faced by farmers, Farmerline in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, USAID Aquafish CRSP and other stakeholders are providing solutions for farmers so they do not become bad testimonies for others who want to venture into fish farming.
Nana Baffour Gyekye remarks that “With what Farmerline has started, delivering extension services and helping to eliminate the market challenges, the future looks good.” He also urged Farmerline to reach all fish farmers in the region because in Ghana he said “Those who are trained in agriculture most times do not venture in at all” and some of them with little knowledge do not get good return on their investment.