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Aquaponics – An African Solution to World problems

As we celebrate World Environment Day, it is a sobering thought to think that our world is currently facing the largest food shortage since World War I as a significant portion of the world’s wheat, corn and barley is trapped in Russia and Ukraine as a result of the ongoing war, while an even larger portion of the world’s fertilizers is stuck in Russia and Belarus. Global food and fertilizer prices are also soaring.

Food security has never been more critical, and the good news is that one global NGO, INMED Partnerships for Children, represented in South Africa by INMED South Africa, is making a world of difference by providing an African Solution to world problems.

INMED Aquaponics® is a unique adaptive agriculture method bringing together aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soilless crop production) in a closed system that uses 90% less water than traditional agriculture – making it ideal for use in arid areas where many vulnerable communities live.

With INMED Aquaponics®, there is no need for fertilizer. The fish do all the work to nourish plentiful, chemical-free produce year-round for a hungry world.  INMED SA Director, Unathi Sihlahla says we used to talk about African solutions to African problems, but we should be talking about African solutions to world problems.  “With Aquaponics we have a solution that can be replicated around the world.”

 INMED SA currently have sites in the Free State, in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and the far Northern Cape, making a significant impact in schools and communities in these regions. Sihlahla says if you compare the growing method to traditional agriculture, Aquaponics really saves a lot of water and it also grows 10 times more in terms of vegetables.  “Even in a small system, like the one we have on the Missionvale campus at Nelson Mandela University for example, we get four to six tons of fish and six to eight tons of vegetables each year and this is a system which is starting to be replicated around the world.”

Last year INMED South Africa made ground-breaking news with the launch of the country’s first INMED Aquaponics® Social Enterprise (INMED ASE) in Vanderbiljpark, Gauteng.

The INMED ASE has been designed to act as a powerful catalyst in equipping farmers to adopt climate-smart agriculture to adapt to climate change and protect the environment. Ideally suited for water-scarce regions, INMED Aquaponics uses requires 90% less water than traditional farming and 85% energy with solar power. Resilient to severe climate events, it can be adapted to any space constraints in urban and rural environments, regardless of geographic conditions.

The INMED ASE is also proving to be an effective tool for transitioning historically disadvantaged populations, including people with disabilities, women and youth, from subsistence to commercial (market-based) agricultural production using climate-smart aquaponics.

With seed funding from Mondelēz International’s Sustainable Futures Fund, the INMED ASE can transform struggling communities into thriving climate-smart hubs of self-reliance. It is a new type of incubator of entrepreneurial agro-enterprises for climate-smart food production. Vanderbijlpark is currently being used for food production, training, and research. It also serves as a consolidation centre for the growing number of aquaponics farmers to sell their harvests at higher market rates as well as purchase inputs, such as seedlings and fingerlings, at bulk prices.

 “INMED has worked in partnership with Mondelēz in South Africa for more than a decade to foster meaningful and sustainable change for the people who need it most. The INMED ASE takes this partnership to the next level, allowing us to scale the impact globally,” says Sihlahla.  INMED in Brazil currently has a thriving Aquaponics programme and in May this year the first INMED ASE was launched in the Caribbean giving the agricultural sector in Jamaica a major boost. 

“Agro-entrepreneurs represent the future of farming globally and a proactive means of assisting communities strengthen food security, climate adaption and economic development,” concludes Sihlahla.

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