President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Thursday commissioned the National Aquaculture Centre and Commercial Farms (NACCF) Project in the Greater Accra Region, a move to enhance food production as well as ensure food security in Ghana.
The Government, through the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) initiated the establishment of the unique and innovative National Aquaculture Center and Farm.
The one-of-its-kind facility, combines the state-of-the-art Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology, which provides water purification at the highest level. The Center will grow tilapia, catfish, and prawns, all of which are part of the essential ingredients in Ghanaian and West African dishes.
Speaking at the Commissioning ceremony at Amrahia in the Adenta Municipality, President Akufo-Addo said the project is yet another milestone in government's determination to develop the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
It is estimated that some 3 million people are employed along the entire value chain of the fisheries and Aquaculture industry, with 60% of the nation's annual protein derived from the fisheries sector.
The fisheries sector contributes about 11% of agriculture's GDP, and employs about 20% of the nation's workforce through direct and indirect means.
Last year, the country earned some $254 million from the export of fish and fish products.
Sadly, President Akufo-Addo said marine stocks the country's sea faces significant threats of pollution, biodiversity loss, ocean dumping, overfishing, maritime threats such as over-exploitation, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, piracy and trafficking.
These avoidable threats, according to the President, affects livelihoods of millions of people, adding: "They affect food security prospects, they affect critical infrastructure, and they affect important ecosystems.
To address dwindling catches while increasing the demand for fish, President Akufo-Addo disclosed that the government in 2019 gave approval for the implementation of greenhouse aquaculture technology system to help increase domestic fish production, increase expertise, as well as create jobs for the youth.
The NACCF whose sod cutting took place in 2021 is aimed to produce fish products and create employment through the training of the local population as fish farmers with emphasis on graduates from the country's universities.
The centre compliments the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture's development programme, Agriculture for Food and Jobs and reaffirms government's determination to reduce graduate unemployment in the country" he added.
According to the President, as "water bodies dry up and become polluted due to human activities and as the pressure on land acquisition increases, modernisation of aquaculture must involve the utilization of less space of water but at the same time, must increase productivity".
"One such modern technology that has these attributes is the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS), which has been employed by the centre.
President Akufo-Addo said not only would the system offer minimum maintenance costs, and relatively moderate to low consumption, but also guarantee the production of healthy and export ready products.
The project, according to the President would ensure the production of 25 metric tons of tilapia, 25 metric tons of catfish, and 4 metric tons prawns annually.
This will ultimately mean an increase in fish production, reduction in fish exports, and the enrichment of local capacity and technical know-how through the training of youth at the centre.
The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hawa Koomson, who described the centre as the first of its kind in Ghana expressed her appreciation to the project contractors, Agrictop Limited, and the consultants, ABA and Partners, for the timely completion of the project.
She said her Ministry has prepared a new Ghana National Aquaculture Development Plan" to be implemented between 2023 and 2027 for the sustainable development aquaculture sub sector.
"The implementation of the plan is expected to improve aquaculture production from 89,376 metric tons in 2021 to 211,697 metric tons by the end of 2027" Hawa Koomson said.
The operationalisation of the sector, the Minister emphasised would also help to improve the implementation of the aquaculture for Food and Jobs initiative and provide the needed practical training to beneficiaries to improve their skills and capacities.
As part of the Center, a tailor-made model has been developed in which 90 students (per annum) will be trained (3 months per student), theoretically and practically, on the operations of an aquaculture farm.
After graduation, the students will be granted the possibility to operate part of the farm on a leasing (cooperative) model, thus enabling them to implement their training and knowledge on a commercial level without the necessity to invest capital in starting their own operation.
The project was built on a "Design and Build" basis by MS Agritop Limited, and the Employer's representative is M/S ABA Partners. Agritop will operate the farm and train students for 2 years.