Aquaculture has been part of the skills training programme at the James Camp Prison, one of Ghana’s 45 correctional facilities, for a decade. But in recent days it has been given a major boost, as part of a project that will soon be extended to other prisons.
Apart from helping discharged prisoners to acquire marketable skills which will help keep them away from crime, the programme aims to enrich the diets of inmates, and provide the perennially underfunded Ghana Prisons Service with some badly needed cash.
Rehabilitation is a key function of every prison. But at James Camp, this is top priority, because unlike the country’s other facilities, it does not take in convicted offenders directly from the courts. The 350 male inmates have already served terms in other prisons – mostly Nsawam, Akuse, Awutu, Koforidua and Ho – and are transferred to James Camp to fast-track their rehabilitation. As well as aquaculture, skills like dressmaking, weaving, horticulture and laundry services are taught by qualified prison officers.
Aquaculture is seen as a sector with the potential to help improve domestic fish output. Early signs are quite encouraging and the country met government targets to double production to reach 100,000 tonnes in 2018, despite a recent tilapia disease outbreak which resulted in significant mortalities on Lake Volta.
Joshua, a 30-year-old inmate, is hopeful about his chances of success after discharge. Hailing from Enyan Denkyira, in the Central Region, he intends to put part of his family’s large holding of land to use. A number of fish farms in the area are linked to the Cluster Farm Company, a Dutch firm.
Meanwhile 29-year-old George hopes to start his own fish farm on the Afram Plains, a major farming area in southern Ghana. Gloria and Stella, assistants at the James Camp farm, hope to learn as much as they can, in order to start ventures of their own.
With the high demand for tilapia and catfish in Ghana and other African countries, prison authorities can count on decent rewards for their aquaculture ventures.
Reaching $4 per kilo at the farmgate and $5 per kilo at the market, tilapia farmers find the price competitive and are in no hurry to rush to the export market.
Local catfish prices are about the same, but quite a number of farmers are eyeing the US market, where prices fetch over $6 per kilo. Patience Baffoe-Bonnie believes that, in the near future, Ghana’s prisons will be telling a great fish story.