Until recently my experience with fish had been limited, to say the least. In all honesty, it had consisted of watching my children win goldfish at a fair - and the occasional cod and chips supper!
However over the last 18 months the subject of fish farming has captured my attention and I have been lucky enough to have my eyes opened to the many and varied challenges involved. (Although I'll be the first to admit I still have a great deal more to learn!)
I first heard about fish farming in 2008 during one of our weekly online meetings with John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation. John had established a fish farm at FF and I was shown photos of the concrete fish tanks for the first time and introduced to the odd-sounding term 'fingerlings' (or baby fish to you and me!)
I soon learned that the protein from the fish was an important tool in the fight against HIV and Aids, something actively addressed by Fantsuam's Positive Concern programme.
John and Fantsuam have gone on to build two fish ponds at Attachab EcoVillage this year, with advice from Marcus Simmons. John intended to fill them with water from a tributary of the River Wonderful, but the gradient proved insufficient to accommodate the pump that he was offered.
Negotiations began with Akvo regarding a more suitable pump but, sadly, despite various conversations and meetings, we were unable to move ahead at that point with the mutual project. However all agreed that we hope to collaborate in future.
My interest in fish farming has been further stimulated by Marcus's feedback and photos from his recent trip to the centre of excellence at Songhai.
Here, for the uninitiated, is an example of Fish Farming, permaculture, recycling and sustainable livelihoods in action. I hope you will be as impressed as I was by the amazing systems in place.
First I was shown an impressive lake full of healthy fish. The paths on the site had drainage ditches running alongside them. In these ditches were of course even more fish (thereby increasing production), together with frogs which helped control the mosquito population.
Sewage from the toilets was directed into ponds, on which water hyacinths grew. Not only did the plants' roots help destroy pathogens, but they looked so pretty and were so effective at treating the sewage that people actually PAY to have their wedding photos taken beside them!
To complete the link to fish farming, the hyacinths were harvested and fed into the biodigestor and, during the process of making biogas, sandflies were attracted and laid their eggs in this 'soup'. These eggs were then harvested and fed as maggots to the fish in the lake and ponds. It was fascinating to see the ingenious way that a simple self-feeding station for the fish was rigged up. A sieve full of maggots was mounted over the water and, as the creatures wriggled, they would fall into the water, where the hungry fish were of course waiting to snap them up!
Even the waste from the abattoir was washed directly through pipes into the pond. Here the nutrients were in turn used to support micro-organisms and plants. And eventually the fish themselves complete the cycle when they too are absorbed into the food chain.
Two senior Fantsuam staff members joined Marcus in Songhai. Fantsuam already have the Attachab Ecovillage site and are keen to put into practice what they have seen and learned about from their own experiences - and from others - so they can have successful sustainable fish farming business in their community
The fish farming story at Attachab (and my knowlege of it) are only in their infancy. But I am looking forward to a flourishing future.