In northern Ghana WFP food-for-assets projects, which provided much needed food assistance to participants during the 'hunger season', are helping rehabilitate the declining fish population.
Fishing is one of the most important occupations for many people living in rural farming communities in Ghana situated close to lakes, dams or small reservoirs. It provides much-needed additional income to farming communities when the rainy season can be unpredictable and is often followed by long dry spells.
Several inhabitants of Golinga were excited when WFP launched a food-for-assets project to build fish ponds and revamp the declining fishing industry.
Abdala Danaa, a fisherman at the Golinga Irrigation Dam, noticed a significant dwindling of the fish population in the dam when he compared his daily catch and earnings to three years ago.
In the past, Abdala Danaa easily made about 30GH¢ (US$15) each month but for most of 2011, he could barely catch enough fish to earn 1GH¢ (US$0.50) a month. This drastic decrease in his earnings made it nearly impossible to provide enough food for his family of seven.
“I’ve always considered fishing as my first occupation, followed by farming. Life became very difficult when the large irrigation dam in Golinga began to run out of fish,” said Abdala Danaa.
Abdala Danaa was not the only person to notice the sharp decline in fish population. District officers of the Fisheries Commission, a unit of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, were concerned that not only Golinga but also surrounding communities might be affected.
An alternative source of fishing needed to be identified to protect the farmers’ livelihoods and guarantee that the nutritional needs of the people were met.
A solution presented itself through a WFP food-for-assets project to construct fish ponds. WFP food-for-assets projects are targeted to help communities rehabilitate and construct vital community assets. Food is provided to participants in exchange for work done.
Constructing the fish pond
Many people in Golinga and the surrounding communities rushed to enroll and take part in WFP’s food-for-asset project that entitled them to a monthly family ration of food. Abdala was thrilled to be one of the 400 people who participated in the construction of the fish ponds and had his wife join him.
The project lasted for five months, from February to June. It was timed to take place during the lean season when household stocks are depleted, food on local markets is expensive and farming activity is often at a standstill.
During the project, four 600 square meter fish ponds were dug. Each participant received a family ration of food, which included 45kg of maize, 3kg of beans, 2.25kg of vegetable oil and 0.75kg of iodized salt, provided in installments.
To date, WFP has supported the construction of 16 ponds in the northern region of Ghana through food-for-assets projects. More than 1,300 people have received 230 metric tons of maize, beans, oil and iodized salt.
Abdala has big plans for next year. Each of the four fish ponds he helped to build were filled with 1,200 fingerlings. By this time next year, Abdala hopes that the Tilapia fingerlings will have grown large enough to sell. He intends to use the money he earns to provide his children with the best education possible.