Understanding the socio-economic characteristics and perception of poverty in artisanal fisheries of Ghana. The Case of Kpong Reservoir

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011

28 Pages


Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Study area
2.1. Kpong
2.2. Small London

3. Methods
3.1. Data collection and analysis
3.1.1. Data collection interviews
3.1.2. Data collection catch assessment
3.1.3. Data collection observation

4. Results and Discussions
4.1. Socio-economic characteristics
4.2. Fishing activities
4.3. Catch assessment
4.4. Household expenditure
4.5. Income
4.6. Distribution of fishing costs
4.7. Perception, understanding and causes of poverty

5. Conclussion



“The cause and the nature of the poverty that persists in many fishing communities is important” (Wright 1990, p.2)


There is a worldwide perception that large number of small-scale fishers, especially in Africa, live in poverty. We applied a mixed-methods of interview, catch assessment and observation to understand the socio-economic characteristics and perception of poverty in artisanal fisheries of Kpong Reservoir of Ghana. Specifically, we asked the following questions: What are the socio-economic characteristics of the fishing communities in terms of age, education, household sizes and fishing experience? What is the distribution of fishing costs and household expenses? What is the perception of poverty in terms of understanding, nature and causes? Results of the study show that the socio-economic characteristics of the fishers around the reservoir are quite similar.

However, they differ in terms of income and household expenditures. Dominant gears used consist of purse seine and gill nets. This study also revealed that fishers have an in-depth perception and knowledge about poverty in the fishing communities; and that it is multi-dimensional in nature other than soley from lack of income. From the study, fishers were able to identify the most vulnerable groups to poverty in the communities.

Keywords: socio-economics; small-scale fisheries; poverty; reservoir; Kpong

1. Introduction

An estimated 90 percent of the 38 million people recorded by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) globally as fishers and fish-farmers are classified as small-scale (FAO, 2004). Globally, small-scale fisheries and fisheries-related activities (processing, trading, net-repairing, etc.) make an important contribution to the nutrition (Srinivasan et al., 2010), food security (Alder et al., 2004), sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation of many countries, especially in Africa. Small-scale fisheries usually require only small capital investment, use low technology gear and vessels (often non-motorised) and catch fish for subsistence or local markets. The work is often part-time or seasonal and is a key component in the livelihoods of millions of people.

The primary objective of this paper is to understand the socio-economic characteristics and perception of poverty among the artisanal fishers in the inland fishing communities of Ghana; the case of the Kpong reservoir. The specific objectives are to find out: (i) the socio-economic background of the fishers in terms of age, education, household sizes, fishing experience; (ii) distribution of fishing costs and household expenses; and (iii) perception of poverty in terms of understanding, nature and causes. It is anticipated that this study will provide baseline information in understanding the socio-economic conditions and poverty of the fishers for social and poverty intervention policies and programmes.

The Kpong resevoir form part of the Volta basin in Ghana. The Volta Lake is the world’s largest man-made lake. The reservoir has the second largest hydroelectric dam built in Ghana. In combination with the Akosombo dam, the Kpong dam is of strategic importance to the economy of Ghana, generating together more than 95% of the power produced in the country (Béné, 2007).

It is down stream to the larger Akosombo dam. Its capacity is 148 to 160 mega watts. It was completed in 1981 and is managed by the Volta River Authority. It is of crucial socioeconomic importance to the nutrition and welfare of the Ghanaian population. It is a major source of hydroelectric power, fish protein, fresh water for irrigation and it is a transportation avenue.

According to Gordon and Amatekpor 1999, various benefits as well as problems were expected from the post-independence damming of the river Volta at Akosombo (1963) and at Kpong (1981). The benefits include; massive outputs of hydroelectric power, enhanced fishing and water transportation upstream and improved opportunities for irrigated farming, especially in the lower reaches and their attendant multiplier economic effects. Among the problems are flooding of settlements and agricultural land, destabilisation of the traditional land holding arrangements by state expropriation and the flooding, and environmental perturbations resulting in increased water-borne diseases, proliferation of aquatic weeds, and the diminished fishing prospects and the attendant economic depression in the lower Volta basin.

Little is known about the socio-economic conditions and perception of poverty among the artisanal fisheries on the Kpong resevoir in Ghana. Although, a lot has been written about poverty in Ghana (NEPAD, 2005; IMF, 2003), poor fishers own understanding of poverty is hardly ever included in policy and programme designed to reduce poverty. The poor fishers are particularly marginalised in terms of voice as they are often represented by mere statistical figures.

The kind of poverty and deprivation that is associated with small-scale fishing households and communities have long been observed and reported but the complexities of their poverty are not well understood. For example, in the early 1970s, the FAO stressed that “the people engaged in these activities and their families continue with few exceptions to live at the margin of subsistence and human dignity” (FAO, 1974). A review of the literature reveals the universally accepted perception that “fisheries rhymes with poverty”. Quotations such as “they are poor because they are fishermen; they are fishermen because they are poor” can be seen in almost all reviews on poverty and fisheries. These quotations only try to say that fishers are poor but did not suggest why the people are poor or how they became poor and even the reason why they are fishers.

Poverty alleviation is one of the major challenges in Ghana and particularly on the Volta basin. According to the Ghana Living Standards Survey of 1998-1999, the percentage of people whose income are below the upper poverty line declined by 12 percent over the previous 7 years to 40 percent. The current poverty headcount ratio at national poverty line ($1.25 per day) is 28.5%. An understanding of the dynamics of poverty among fishers provides a wealth of information for its management, planning for sustainable fish resource management and implementation of effective policies to guide both the industry and the human lives dependent on it.

2. Study area

The study focused on Kpong (urban) and Small London (rural) along the Kpong reservoir

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1. A map of coastal Ghana showing Kpong Reservoir
(Source: Department of Geography, Resource and Development, University of Ghana).

The Kpong Reservoir is located in the east of Ghana and on the Volta River system (6°9’N, 0°5’E, Figure 1). The Kpong dam, which was closed in May 1981, caused the flooding of about 2685 hectares of land. The reservoir has a total surface of 31.4 km2 and a maximum water depth of 15 m with a mean depth of 5 m. The reservoir is characterized by the presence of many small islands forming rapids; for example, the Senchi rapids in the northern sector of the reservoir and the Kpong reservoir rapids in the southern sector.


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Understanding the socio-economic characteristics and perception of poverty in artisanal fisheries of Ghana. The Case of Kpong Reservoir
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Berchie Asiedu (Author), 2011, Understanding the socio-economic characteristics and perception of poverty in artisanal fisheries of Ghana. The Case of Kpong Reservoir, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/165448


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