Majority of fish processors along the coast belt in Ghana do not have access to the services provided by agricultural extension officers to facilitate the development of the fisheries industry, a new study has found.
The study conducted by the Development Action Association (DAA) through a grant from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC), revealed that majority of fish processors were not aware of the presence of agricultural extension agents in their respective communities.
The study conducted in the Greater Accra and parts of the Central regions through structured questionnaire and focused group discussions among fish processors also revealed that most of the fish processors, mostly women, have great awareness of the existence of the fisheries Act 625 of 2002.
“This result confirms discussions from the focused group discussion session where responses confirmed their awareness but indicated that these laws and regulations governing the fisheries sector are not enforced,” according to the study, which was presented at Bortianor, in Accra.
Again, the study showed that, the awareness of the fisheries law and regulation plays a key role in assisting people to acquire the needed knowledge.
“These results imply that awareness of the laws is not enough for the success of the sector but knowledge and understanding is critical in enhancing the growth of the fisheries sector,” the study noted.
The Executive Director of the DAA, Lydia Sasu, says her outfit received the grant from BUSAC to undertake advocacy campaign for stakeholders in fishing industry to fully enforce/implement the Fisheries Act, 626 of 2002 to enable members of DAA fully access the opportunities enshrined in the Act.
“The essence of the advocacy is thus to ensure an enabling environment is created by policy makers to make fish processing extension service and other benefits readily available to the association members to enhance their fish processing business and to create jobs and wealth, ” she stated.
Mrs Emelia Nortey, the Programme Consultant for the DAA on the BUSAC project, says Improvement in fish processing is urgently needed in the country to achieve nutrition security and called on government to put in place measures to ensure extension officers delivery for improvement in fish processing.
She noted that Most policies in the fish processing is in English language but fish processors who have no formal education find out difficult to understand the policies which seeks to improve their livelihoods.
Presenting the findings, the Research Consultant, Nii Tackey Otto, says factors affecting fish processing activities in Ghana as identified by the respondents include lack of fishing inputs, high cost of the inputs, fire hazards as well as lack of knowledge of regulations governing the fishing industry.
Supports required from government to help the fishing industry according to the study are; provision of electricity, loans, fertiliser, machinery and tools for farming as well as subsidised wires for fish smoking.
There some ongoing intervention to improve Ghana’s fishing industry by donor agencies. One is the USAID/Ghana the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) which is working closely with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and Fisheries Commission (MOFAD/FC) to ensure that tens of thousands of metric tons of fish which have been lost over the last two decades are recouped to reduce poverty and hunger as well as sustain the livelihoods of about 170,000 fishers including women fish processors and about 2.2 million indirect jobs.
SFMP is working with relevant fisheries stakeholders and supporting MOFAD/FC to implement management measures such as a closed season as contained in a recently approved National Marine Fisheries Management Plan. The goal of SFMP is to rebuild targeted marine fisheries stocks through the adoption of sustainable practices and exploitation levels.
Ghana’s per capita apparent fish consumption is among the highest in the world at an average of 28 kg per person per annum. The world’s per capita apparent fish consumption increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 19.2 kg per person per annum in 2014. Thus, the role of the sector is far reaching and needs to receive more attention for improved management of a marine sector which is near collapse due to management issues such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, weak governance, overcapacity and overfishing.
The study recommends Fisheries Commission (FC) to recruit and train more extension agents especially women, in fish processing to increase the level of extension contact and the need for the post-harvest unit of FC to be resourced (technical and financial) to effectively and efficiently execute their responsibilities.
Other recommendations outlined by the study are the need for the various departments of MOFAD/FC to collaborate and have joint training for women fish processors so they have holistic knowledge of the fisheries sector and fish processors should organize themselves into groups so extension agents can effectively provide them with useful information and advice.