In Ghana, the Volta River Basin reaches across over half of the countryside. Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake (by surface area), is the centerpiece of both the Volta River and the Ghanaian economy, providing a source of hydroelectric power and vast populations of fish for local people.
In an innovative partnership, WorldFish and the Water Research Institute (WRI) in Ghana have been working for more than 15 years to significantly improve the productivity of Nile tilapia through a selective breeding program.
Dr. Felix Attipoe, the Officer-in-Charge at the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre at WRI notes, “In most parts of the world such as Norway, where they experimented with salmon and in the UK, there has been a lot of improvement of farmed fish. They improve the growth and that is beneficial to the farmers and goes to improve the economy as well. However in Africa and Ghana, this was non-existent and farmers were breeding all types of tilapia and were unable to achieve the growth rate necessary for them to make much money,” he adds.
"The tilapia industry in Ghana is booming with the new Akosombo strain. Most of the hatcheries have adopted the new strain as their brood stock, and are producing fingerlings for the whole industry." - Dr. Felix Attipoe, Water Research Institute
WorldFish began working with WRI on improving the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in the hope of replicating productivity success previously achieved in the Philippines. By selecting the fastest growing fish over eight generations, WRI developed an improved Akosombo strain. Normally, tilapia takes eight months to reach maturity from the fingerling stage, but the Akosombo strain matures in as little as five months. Not only does this bring financial reward to the local fishers, it provides the necessary dietary protein for some 170,000 Ghanaians who rely on fish from the Volta basin.
“The tilapia industry in Ghana is booming with the new Akosombo strain. Most of the hatcheries have adopted the new strain as their brood stock, and are producing fingerlings for the whole industry. At the current pace, tilapia production in Ghana is projected to increase tenfold by 2015,” explains Felix.
Felix notes some of the advantages arising out of the partnership with WorldFish. “The partnership has been very beneficial because we are using technology which is quite advanced and for which we have benefitted from training thanks to WorldFish,” he says.
“With this training we are currently improving local fish strains and also training our partners from Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Even in-country we have been able to train farmers, technicians, farm managers and what have you. Resource persons from WorldFish visit to observe what we are doing and also to infuse new ideas into our operations,” he notes.
The collaboration with WorldFish has established WRI as a trusted fishery resource for the entire region. Surplus fish is exported to Côte d’Ivoire and other neighboring countries, and Ghana has become a hub for tilapia breeding in the area.
“Ghana now is the nucleus of the breeding program for the subcontinent. What is more, we have a national breeding program ongoing and this provides the best growing materials for the farmers. Burkina Faso and Nigeria have all been here to take improved strains to culture in their home countries. We are impacting the sub-region,” he adds.