Fishing village, Ghana
The six districts of Ghana's coastal zone represent less than seven percent of the land area of the country, yet they are home to 25 percent of the nation's total population. The combination of increasing food and livelihoods insecurity, population growth, and environmental degradation continues to impact negatively on the quality of human life in this coastal zone. In addition, rapidly evolving extractive industries in the region, including fisheries, plantation crops, hard minerals and petroleum, present challenges that regional governments are not equipped to handle.
Over-exploitation of fishery resources
Fisheries are important to Ghana’s economy and its food security. Per capita fish consumption is 27 kg per annum compared to the world average of 13 kg per annum.
Local demand for fish already outstrips supply, and the gap between supply and demand is expected to increase, placing increasing pressure on fish stocks that are already considered some of the most overexploited in the region. Combined with little or no enforcement of regulations, this situation sees individual fishermen losing economic ground, and an important component of the nation’s and sub-region’s food security becoming increasingly at risk.
Threats to biodiversity assets
It’s not just the fisheries that are under threat. Ghana’s rich biodiversity is also shrinking. Although the country’s coast has approximately 90 lagoons, five of which are designated RAMSAR sites (wetlands of international importance), coastal wetland losses are estimated to be 6,000 hectares per year. Ghana is also home to five species of marine turtles, and humpback whales migrate through the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Unfortunately, there are no marine protected areas within Ghana’s waters to help preserve this biodiversity.
HεN MPoano (Our Coast) Initiative
The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center
is managing the Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) initiative in western Ghana. Known locally as the HεN MPOANO (Our Coast) Initiative, this USAID-funded project seeks to address the existing threats to fisheries and coastal biodiversity, while also helping communities adapt to climate change.
WorldFish work carried out during the first phase of this project will serve as a key building block for later phases, including the design of fisheries management initiatives. WorldFish participation includes carrying out an analysis of the state of fisheries resources; a review of fisheries management; a marketing analysis; and an examination of livelihood diversification options that will be used to assess the feasibility of introducing aquaculture into the region.
WorldFish scientists will also look at the role of women in Ghanaian fisheries. The gender division of labor in this industry is, on the surface, clear-cut: men fish and women process and market the catch. However, the many ways in which men and women interact and negotiate over fish resources are less well understood. Research to date suggests that women fish traders can be powerful players in the market. Some women even have their own boats, engines, nets, etc. Clearly they are important participants and sometimes drivers of change in the Ghanaian fisheries industry. WorldFish will attempt to develop a better understanding of these relationships.
Supporting Ghana's development objectives
From a long-term perspective, the ICFG initiative is seeking to gain broad commitment to a coastal planning and management program for the Western Region of Ghana, which includes securing the resources necessary for its long-term implementation. Project work is being conducted in support of the government of Ghana’s development objectives of poverty reduction, food security, sustainable fisheries management and biodiversity conservation.