When aquaculture was introduced through Canadian Feed The Children’s (CFTC) food security project RESULT, women enthusiastically joined knowing they could cultivate high-protein food and earn money at market by fish farming on local dams.
Since then, the interest in aquaculture as an alternative income generating activity for women has spread beyond local RESULT communities – piquing curiosity across Ghana and internationally about this new initiative helping to empower women, in a country where arable land ownership rights are held mostly by men.
This interest culminated in an Aquaculture Stakeholders Forum this past May in Tamale, Ghana – led in partnership by CFTC, ACDEP, and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development – and sponsored by Global Affairs Canada. The forum brought together national and international experts, practitioners, and policy makers on aquaculture to Northern Ghana to share knowledge and best practices.
Through the RESULT project, CFTC has spearheaded aquaculture in three northern economically-challenged regions of Ghana – regions which are now predicted to become leaders for this fast-growing industry. To date, 70 per cent of participants in CFTC’s aquaculture program have been women, helping to ensure food security, nutrition, and income for their households.
At the Forum, the Northern Regional Minister of Ghana, Abdallah Abubakar, echoed the important role aquaculture can play in unlocking the potential of women living in poverty:
“A casual observation of the fish [farming] industry will tell you that the major players are women,” Mr. Abubakar said. “I see [aquaculture] as an opportunity to support our women, to have an area where they can have expertise in, in order to improve upon their incomes.”
RESULT provides groups of farmers with the start-up inputs for one six-month cycle of production in small-scale fish cages. The groups are provided with five cages, a canoe, initial stocking of 7,000 young fish, and training on net mending, business planning, harvesting and marketing. The fish that survive and grow are used for sale and consumption, and the revenue is used to restock the cages for another production cycle.
Til-Bo-onbon, the Chairperson of the Songtana (“Help Each Other”) Aquaculture Group from the Upper East Region of Ghana is proud of how far the group has come:
“We didn’t know anything about aquaculture when RESULT came to introduce it to us. We were very nervous about doing it since most of us were not used to the water, but with technical support we learned how to control the boat, to feed and care for the fish. We could soon see how quickly the fish were growing; it’s like moving from ‘zero to hero.’”
With recent statistics showing fish production from Ghana’s natural bodies of water in deep decline – current production meeting only 50 per cent of the overall need in a country with one of the highest fish consumption rates in Sub-Saharan Africa – aquaculture is posed to help overcome this challenge.
Smallholder farmers like Til-Bo-onbon that are working through the RESULT project report eating fish more than five times per week – a sign of the increased wealth and food security the project has brought to these communities.
Attendees at the Aquaculture Stakeholders’ Forum were keen to leverage the successes of CFTC’s aquaculture project, looking to apply best practices and expand construction of hatcheries across the country to help improve women’s livelihoods so they can better support their families.
The Resilient and Sustainable Livelihoods Transformation (RESULT) project is a six-year, $19-million project funded generously by Global Affairs Canada and private donors.