The improved variety is to increase aquaculture productivity and food security in West Africa.
For local consumption, an increase in productivity can result in greater availability of fish in the market, reducing the price of the product and making it more accessible to poor consumers.
“The response is phenomenal, the tilapia industry in Ghana is booming with the new Akosombo strain. At the current pace, tilapia production in Ghana is projected to increase tenfold by 2015,” says Dr. Felix Attipoe, the Officer-in-Charge at WRI.
During the recent 28th National Farmers Day celebration, the WRI was awarded winner of the National Best Agricultural Researcher Award in Ghana for the development of the Akosombo strain.
According to Dr. Attipoe, the Akosombo strain is also benefiting the West African sub-region with surplus fish exported to La Côte d'Ivoire, and fingerlings sent to Burkina Faso and Nigeria for breeding.
Fish contain micronutrients essential for a balanced diet, and increasing the availability and affordability of Nile Tilapia will help food and nutrition security in the region.
Almost 4 million people are employed in the fish farming industry in Africa, and faster-growing, heavier fish have financial benefits for farmers who can produce more fish per year.
A rise in productivity also increases food security by making fish available and affordable for the growing African population that depend on fish products for nutrition.
The Nile Tilapia – Oreochromis niloticus – is a variety of fish native to much of Africa.
Through a selective breeding program in Egypt spanning over 10 years, WorldFish has also developed the Abbassa strain that grows 28% faster and heavier than the most commonly used commercial strain in the country, the Kafr El Shaikh strain.
The Abbassa selection line also has the potential to be disseminated outside of Egypt to other Mediterranean and West Asian countries with a similar climate.
Producing heavier fish faster means a greater income for Nile Tilapia farmers, and is expected to have significant economic benefits for the aquaculture industry in Egypt and Ghana.
Director of Aquaculture and Genetics at WorldFish, Malcolm Beveridge says public-private partnerships would help get the fish to the farmers.
“I think it’s easier if the private sector and with help from the public sector, we can try to ensure that all the hatcheries throughout Ghana have got access to this fish”, he said.
The Abbassa and Akosombo strains reach their harvest weight faster compared to non-improved strains, saving both time and money for farmers in terms of labor and fish feed costs.
Any dissemination of the Abbassa or Akosombo strains is preceded by rigorous scientific testing against local stock, and a careful assessment of the local environment to examine any potential risks involved with the dissemination.
WorldFish is a member of the CGIAR Consortium – a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.