Tilapia has become a popular delicacy in Ghana. The trend has boosted Tilapia demand in the country and has made many entrepreneurs to invest in commercial Tilapia farming.
Osu Oxford Street in Ghana's capital Accra is bustling with people going about their daily business. In the middle of the city, there is one food stall in particular that is attracting the Ghanaians.
It has a popular treat, Tilapia served with hot pepper, onions and local side dishes like Banku and Kenkey.
Maame Akua, the owner of this Tilapia stall, says the business is booming. "We buy the Tilapia fresh from the market and spice it well with ginger among others. People like it very much."
A growing industry
The huge demand for Tilapia has led many entrepreneurs to leave other businesses and venture into the aquaculture industry. One of them is Menson Torkonoo, a former banking manager at the Bank of Africa.
He owns Rehobothgoshen Fisheries LTD, located on the shores of Ghana's Volta Lake. This is where several cages have been put up for rearing the fingerlings that will develop into Tilapia. He started the business in 2011 and now he employs 21 workers.
Torkonoo's first few years in the industry have been a challenge. "Even with all the catch fisheries we have in the sea and with all the local fishermen giving us fish in Ghana, we have not able to meet even fifty percent of the demand," Torkonoo said.
But he is optimistic that this will change. "We have all the potential," he said. Depending on the density of Tilapia in the water at the time of harvesting, his business can sometimes harvest as much as four tons (4,000 kilograms) of fish in one net. "My aim is to produce for Ghanaians [...] make sure that everybody has fish to eat."
Last year, a delegation of Ghanaians visited Europe to learn new technologies in the sector. Dr. Felix Yaw Klamatikpoe is a scientist with Ghana's water research institute.
For the last 15 years he has been involved in developing the Akosombo strain of the Nile Tilapia to make it more suitable for commercial farming purposes.
"This strain has been developed to help farmers with fast growing fingerlings and it is helping the aquaculture industry in Ghana," he said.
Popular delicacy Tilapia is boosting investment in commercial fish farming
For a long time, fish-farming in Ghana was only done on a small-scale basis, to feed a family or sell a little at the market. But since the 1990s, the government and the World Bank have been trying to promote commercial fish farming in the country.
Fish farm manager Torkonoo would like to see more young people in his line of business. "It is one of the areas, even government should be directly involved in and encourage young people," he said.
Torkonoo knows that it is a profitable business but with some challenges as well. "Honestly I want to encourage young people to go into it even though it is capital intensive. Start small, begin to grow and in the long run it will become big."
It's a tough business, he says, but Torkonoo hopes to feed many more Ghanaians who have a taste for Tilapia. Once his business has developed, he plans to take the next step and start exporting his fish.
Author Isaac Kaledzi in Accra / lw
Editor Asumpta Lattus