Aquaponics for a better nutrition and justice: A life that is worth living is worth living well. This project uses an innovative technology in fish farming and vegetable garden production in order to empower women becoming entrepreneurs, thereby improving their economic situation and nutritional status and that of their children.
Which problem do we aim to solve and why?
For millions of Ivorian access to land and water is restricted, self-sufficiency is difficult to achieve, their purchase power is low and food scarcity has undermine their nutritional value and that of their children. The consequence: malnutrition of the population. Additionally, social factors deteriorate the nutritional status, particularly of women and children. Women own less land, earn less money than men, and are the last who eat. But women have a significant influence on the nutrition of children, meaning that women and children are often malnourished. Like a vicious circle, this determines their future, health and manpower. They need help to help themselves.
In order to combat malnutrition consequently among Ivorian women and especially children on a long run, this concept integrates an interdisciplinary approach:
The base is an aquaponics system – a production technology consisting of a closed nutrient cycle of fish farming and vegetable cultivation. In one basin, fish and their excrement provide essential nutrients for edible plants floating on polystyrene boards in another water basin. The plants filter the fish water which flows back into the fish basin. The water demand is 80% less than that of a conventional fish farm. Compost material is used for fertilizer. Patches have changing native plants all year long. Women of a selected community take the lead in cultivating the aquaponics system. Five of these women are specifically trained for the topics: nutrition, sustainable cultivation, climate change and economic policy issues. And they, in turn, advise and help other participating women (extension workers). This way, severe micronutrient deficiencies in vitamin A/D, iron and zinc can be deliberately covered by native edible plants (e.g. Moringa ) from their own production. The sustainable, gender-sensitive cultivation ensures a balanced and healthy nutrition for children and women, strengthens the network of smallholders and their economic independency, and improves the social position of women.
Why is our idea innovative, new or different?
Our concept takes a holistic approach and puts malnutrition and its causes in context with economy, environment and social issues. The combination of aquaponics and women empowerment emphasizes on a long-term solution for food production and demand-oriented nutrition especially for children; it serves the protection of environment, and offers an income base for people. Help comes from within the community and, therewith ensures a higher acceptance. The concept is tailored for a small-scale production, but can be scaled arbitrarily and extended nationwide. Our idea involves the weakest links in the chain and offers women resources and a future through training on the right diet that has a high nutritional content for a strong nourishment in feeding their children.
How is my idea feasible?
The project will be carried out with support of the respective community, the Ivorian Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture or NGOs (GIZ, Welthungerhilfe, Caritas). The inclusion of the community women and their investment develop project ownership. First step will be the organisation of women, the training and to determine the place for the pilot system. The construction of the sustainable plant only utilizes simple, locally available and used materials. Aquaponics is low-maintenance, efficient in resource consumption, pesticide free, scalable and easy to implement. Water comes from wells and shall be constantly analyzed on its quality by the responsibly Ivorian Ministry. The seeds for vegetables, herbs, nuts, rice, roots (e.g. manioc) and fish, rich in variety and vitamins, come from the region. Waste products will be fed back again into the cycle.
Which technologies, channels or methods are we planning to use?
The aquaponics system is innovative, sustainable and recirculating. The use of solar pumps makes fossil fuels redundant. The mobilization of the community women is central and ensures the project´s effectiveness. This can be realized by announcements on the radio, and later by the trainings on the project which especially focus on advantages of participation. Questions and concerns will be heard and clarified at this point. The five trained key women of the responsible community act as socially accepted multiplier. Initial, smaller investments will be made by the community itself. Thereby they develop a sense of responsibility and commitment for the project.
What outcome and what improvements do I expect? How do I measure these?
The variety and quantity of vegetables, legumes, fish, fruits, nuts and herbs for self-sufficiency will grow (monitoring of biodiversity and quantity of yields). Medical assessments will show a significant decrease of malnutrition in the test field after X months (blood sample analysis: anemia; arm circumference etc.). The net income of the community members improves (compared to previous status). There are less incidents of harassment and discrimination of women. The community of the pilot project reports weekly about the development of plants and fishes; a project coordinator checks it monthly. There will be a qualitative ascertainment by the Ministry of fisheries every month.
My budget planning & acquisition of potential partners
The budget will be used for the construction of the pilot system (used materials), the fish from Ivorian fish farms, the seeds, the analysis of the water quality and fish health, and for the evaluation of the results. The initiative is supported by the Ministry of Fisheries and of Agriculture, also by the provincial headquarters of GIZ or the like (conduct of trainings). Volunteers support additionally. The “Amsha Africa Foundation“ or Aquaponics Deutschland e. V. can give advice on tropical aquaponics systems. After the test phase, responsibility for the project will be transferred to the community.