Authors of the blog: Seth Koranteng Agyakwah, Amy Atter, Stephen Nketia, Ruby Asmah, Emmanuel Mensah and Queronica Q. Quartey
Over 70% of Accra city dwellers depend on fish as their source of animal protein intake. Unfortunately, many communities do not have adequate access to healthy nutritious fish-based foods. Most fish products are of poor quality and unsafe for consumption due to poor handling and processing techniques. Whereas healthy fish production in the cities may address the insufficient fish-based food availability, the practice is currently unsustainable because of low adoption of appropriate culture technology, or unsafe practices due to use of polluted urban natural water for production. Poor businesses along the fish value chain, and lack of deliberate policy actions for women’s inclusion in decision making processes despite their key roles in finance and marketing, certainly make urban food systems unsustainable.
In the Accra Food System Lab, the CSIR-Water Research and Food Research Institutes are jointly implementing intervention programs, which aim to promote food and nutrition security among urban and peri-urban communities in Greater Accra and Eastern Regions. The intervention strategy is designed to support all processes involved in the use of fish as part of a healthy diet through aquaculture, product value addition and businesses, processing equipment development and policy reforms. Our exploratory and action-oriented research and development have become necessary to meet growing demands of the complex and culturally diverse urban and peri-urban populations with wide range of food requirements and preferences.
Visioning a transformed society
In the next 10 years, we envisage a highly transformed society with inter-connectivity of sustainable aqua-food production systems, increased availability of value-added and healthy fish-based food products and related value chain businesses with accompanying consumer populations and a more informed policy/local governance personnel looking for constraining areas and needed reforms. Specifically, the urban and peri-urban communities in Ghana, including particularly the project focused Ga South, Adentan and Tema Municipalities and Asuogyaman District will have self-sustaining, eco-friendly fish production systems, increased availability of healthy fish produce and value added products to feed millions of the cosmopolitan and peri-urban populations. Alongside we envisage opportunities of decent jobs created for the youth, men and women, with significant improvement in household incomes and healthy-living lifestyles.
Variety of food system actors engaged
To make the vision of Accra food system dynamic and achievable, Food System Lab Accra is engaging with all identified stakeholders to co-generate, co-design, co-learn and co-adopt food system innovations and technologies that will transform lives of urban and peri-urban community dwellers. These stakeholders include relevant policy makers, regulators for fish production and food handling and processing, input suppliers, fish producers, aggregators, processors, traders, entrepreneurs, traditional authorities, chefs, matrons, media and consumers.
We are using systems-based approach, stakeholder consultation and analytical tools to select the core food system actors. Key actors being engaged presently to make our vision happen, especially a collective strategic forward-looking roadmap, include; Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Fisheries Commission, Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, Local Government Authorities and Agencies (such as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies), Traditional Authorities, Civil Society Organizations, Associations of Fish Farmers, Food Vendors, Traditional Caterers, Chefs and Media.
With stakeholder-specific communication and innovation platforms created and running, our Food System Lab is actively engaging the food system actors in a functional and dynamic way to ensure successful achievement of its vision, goals, and objectives with the collaboration of the stakeholders.
Innovations to facilitate rapid transformation
Food System Lab Accra is collaborating with its stakeholders to co-create innovative technologies and processes involved in fish production, healthy fish smoking technology, development of novel fish-based and vegan food products and associated business models to facilitate rapid transformation of food system and promote healthy dietary lifestyles. Most striking innovations we will bring on board include, but are not limited to the following:
(a) Smart backyard aquaculture production technology, where green energy (solar energy) will be utilised in automated water management system for backyard aquaculture production.
(b) Reclaiming clean water by mechanical and/or biological processes from polluted municipal streams/rivers or groundwater for urban/peri-urban backyard production of wholesome fish and vegetables.
(c) Improved and cost-effective fish smoking technology, where mass smoked fish are produced by community women and men processors without smoke polluting agents like poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for healthy fish diets.
(d) Develop convenience ready-to-eat baked fish (e.g. tilapia, catfish) bars/chips, soya sausages and baked bambara beans. These could be used respectively by non-vegans and vegans for snacks, added to main food dishes and to the weaning food mix.