Dr Ruby AsmahDr Ruby Asmah is a 2004 Commonwealth Scholar from Ghana, who studied for a PhD in Aquaculture. Ruby was awarded the Leverhulme Royal Society Africa Award for her project ‘Planning for Improved and Sustainable Cage Aquaculture in Lake Volta, Ghana’. The three-year project was initiated in 2012 in tandem with the University of Stirling Institute of Aquaculture, where Ruby held her Commonwealth Scholarship.

Ruby works alongside Professor Lindsay Ross and Dr Trevor Telfer from the Institute Of Aquaculture, as well as two members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and a PhD student. Ruby and her colleagues have several goals including concerning the aquaculture on Lake Volta, and ultimately want to ensure regional food security and to contribute to developing industry in the region.

Fish production from cage aquaculture methods is extremely important to Ghana, as it accounts for over 80% of the aquaculture industry. Lake Volta hosts over 58 fish farms with more than 1700 individual cages. Fish cage aquaculture supports food security, health, and the general wellbeing of communities surrounding Lake Volta. Ruby’s strategy is to focus on increasing environmental monitoring abilities and subsequent information assessment.

Material collected through skilled observation activities could then aid the creation of a plan for future improved and sustainable cage aquaculture on Lake Volta. Data will be collected on aquaculture waste dispersion and interactions in the lake to determine its overall effect on the lake’s characteristics. By analysing the lake’s environment, Ruby’s team will configure models to predict the further impact of cage culture on the ecosystem of Lake Volta. The models will also help analyse daily uses – potential for consumable water, irrigation applications, and beyond.

Another project goal is to determine the influence of cage culture on water quality, bottom sediments, and organisms living in the seabed. Project activities included analyses of bimonthly water samples, building a spatial model of the cage system, training the team’s PhD student, writing reports, and giving presentations. As the state of Lake Volta is established through this research, an important focus is placed on future sustainability. One of the project’s main goals is to develop a plan for sustained cage aquaculture. This will continue to increase the industry’s positive effects, such as resident income, community development, and poverty reduction and prevention.

Ruby’s venture collaborates with a division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Water Research Institute (CSIR WRI). The CSIR WRI is based in Ghana where Ruby is the Senior Research Scientist and the Ghana Principal Investigator. The Sustainable Cage Aquaculture in Lake Volta project has benefitted the CSIR WRI in a number of ways. The new resources and equipment essential to Ruby and her colleagues has strengthened the capacity of the CSIR WRI’s research function.

Another positive effect is that stakeholder institutions and aquaculture sector regulators will gain increased capacity and knowledge during training workshops. Nurturing staff skills will lead to improved management and output. Current targets for Ruby and her colleagues include a conference presentation, completion of the participating MPhil and PhD students’ research work.