Youth and Agriculture Development in Ghana: An Interview with Daniel Kwaku Owusu

Eight months on from our first interview, Gresë Sermaxhaj speaks to Daniel Kwaku Owusu about his aquaponics work in Ghana.

The young activist from Ghana, Daniel Kwaku Owusu, in this interview with Youth Time discusses the recent improvements of the Household Aquaponics Initiative in Urban and Peri-urban areas as an alternative livelihood source and food security strategy.

He elaborates on the positive sides of including young people in agriculture development, and how winning support from MCW Global to advance the project, and the launching of the website helped him and his team to build even greater things for the community. 

Read on for more insights on how Ghana is reviving its economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and how Daniel’s activism has positively impacted the lives of single income earners, unemployed graduates, and enthusiastic children during these challenging times.

 

Daniel, we last spoke at the end of 2020, and from then to now the Household Aquaponics initiative is operational in four regions across Ghana, namely Ashanti, Greater Accra, Western and Western North regions, and a flagship project being run by Glean Society Network.

Can you please let our readers know how these past eight months have been for you? What were the key challenges and successes faced in implementing your vision?

The journey has never been easy since the conceptualisation to implementation of the aquaponics initiative. I will say that the past eight months since our last engagement have been really amazing and a career turning point. Gra dually building our team, strategising on both aquaponics setup and fish marketing strategies as well as improving the online presence of the project. 

Precisely, these months have been full of opportunities, aquaponics tests, trials, research, team building and pitching to potential customers. 

Although the initiative has been widely accepted by many people encountered, we envisage to still continuously contribute to food security among households by assisting people to utilise small spaces in their household for fish and vegetables production in Ghana and Africa at large.

Using locally available materials, we seek to promote household adoption of aquaponics (fish and vegetables culture) in a recirculation system as a climate adaptation strategy and alternative livelihood support in urban and peri-urban areas.

Challenges are always inevitable in every aspect of our lives. However, one’s ability to thrive effectively in the face of challenges makes him or her an excellent leader. Challenges encountered so far are associated with the high cost of fingerlings from other private hatchery operators and unavailability or shortage of mini low-cost low-energy pumps (used in the recirculation system).

Faced with these challenges, we have still been in operation to continuously create sustainable and alternative livelihood for households in peri-urban and urban areas in Ghana. Currently, the aquaponics initiative has reached 16 setups among households across four regions of the country where 11 have been completed fully. 

The remaining five setups are still in the pipeline to be completed by early October 2021. To my amazement, there is not a single day that my team does not receive calls from other potential enthusiastic households in other non-operational regions of the initiative. 

Moreover, we have successfully set up an official project website to serve as an online and virtual reference point and tutorials for our clients and interested personalities.

 

Youth Thriving in Sustainable Agriculture

Your initiative ensures household food security by empowering the younger generation to adopt innovative aquaponics. Can you please brief us on how it’s going and what’s the youth’s contribution to this far-reaching initiative? You also offer youth training to ensure the sustainability of the project. Please elaborate.

African youth can positively transform the world and contribute their quota in solving most of the food insecurity issues on the African continent when given the needed chance, knowledge, and the right tools. As a young person, I have always believed in the ripple effect syndrome associated with knowledge sharing and empowering other youth to appreciate the concept of the household aquaponics initiative, which is operating as a social enterprise. 

Regarding the youth training, four university graduate volunteers have come on board to assist with the system setup and marketing of the fish and vegetables from the system setup in households. 

Among households where the establishment is done, children and youth within the household are given tutorials on how to manage, feed, maintain, discharge and ensure good water exchange. 

When children are introduced to the concept of ensuring food security at their early stage in life, they appreciate it better to ensure the sustainability of our food production system.

We frequently keep in touch with the youth by introducing youth to new concepts about aquaponics and the relevance of the household aquaponics in supporting communities.

 

In Response to COVID-19: Positively Impacting the Community 

In Ghana, COVID-19 and the lockdown exposed the lapses within the country’s agriculture value chain and job security. Jobs were lost and general food insecurity was a major concern. How the aquaponics initiative came to help the community in this situation?

The world is constantly devising ways to ensure sustainable adaptation of people, organisations and households in these hard times of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ghana is one of the countries trying to revive its economy amidst this. 

Its agriculture sector has experienced major backlash since the pandemic became a torn in our flesh. There are high food commodity prices, a decrease in income sources by families and joblessness in the country, and the aquaponics initiative has come at the right time to ensure a well-to-do household. 

The initiative has positively impacted the lives of single income earners, unemployed graduates, enthusiastic children and constructively contributed to general food security among households in urban and peri-urban areas.

Since our last engagement, our first four initial households in which we did the aquaponics setups have already harvested their fishes and restocked, expecting for the current stock to be ready for the market this month.

More households have engaged my team, especially people on retirement and sole breadwinners for the aquaponics establishment in the house. A beneficiary cheerfully said “my household now has enough to feed on and sell to generate enough income.” […]

Although COVID-19 has disrupted the economy by causing people to lose their jobs and disenfranchising some households from meeting the protein requirements of their family. 

However, since the inception, 16 households and still counting have benefitted from the complete setup and hundreds of people have purchased the fish and vegetables from our project.

 

Can you introduce our readers to the recent addition to the initiative- the efficient and mini filtration system, online training platform, single automated fish tank system and funding from MCW Global, Alumni Ventures Fund?

The household aquaponics initiative has several useful components, such as the efficient mini-filtration system, online training platform, single automatic fish feeder, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in basic water quality, and catfish diseases identification. We have received funding from the MCW Global Alumni Ventures Fund.

The Glean Aquaponics team envisages to stay within the value chain of aquaponics systems and assist our clients and the public in giving them alternative income sources while ensuring food security among households and communities.

The setup initially made use of bigger white and slightly expensive containers for the recirculation system. 

However, to make the filtration process more sustainable and efficient, there was the need to use PVC pipes of four and six inches at different stages of the filtration process where each stage houses the sea shells, gravels, filters and the pump. Therefore, the new filtration process has been piloted in three households and it’s working amazingly.

Making the aquaponics initiative more appreciable by the youth and our clients is truly important in providing the requisite knowledge to clients and assisting other youth to gain the needed skills in urban and peri-urban aquaponics farming. An online training platform served as a reference point for all aquaponics enthusiasts.

Most of our clients are currently finding it uneasy with the feeding routine and benefiting from the concept of intermittent feeding strategy to ensure high Feed Conversion Ratio.

Apart from the feeding challenges for some clients, others raise concerns about their inability to determine the good or otherwise of the fish water column (water quality analysis) and the cause of mortality, if any. In that regard, there was the need to inculcate fish disease identification and water quality analysis in the tank culture system using AI. 

This funding will go a long way in helping the initiative to reach larger audiences, train more youth, provide job avenues, establish a hatchery and continuously support in providing alternative livelihood. 

Our doors are opened for support, knowledge sharing and partnership for improved food security on the African continent.

Previously, Youth Time spoke to Daniel in more depth about how he is transforming agriculture in his home country.

The Aquaponics Initiative: A Young Activist Transforming Agriculture in Ghana

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