Aquaponics: The Future of Farming

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Aquaponics: The Future of Farming
February 16, 2018
Nancy Croft Baker, INMED
Tanesha Wallace has dreamed of this day for a long time. Today, she is on her way to starting her own business, thanks to a new program by INMED Partnerships for Children to bring smallholders farmers in Jamaica into the mainstream economy.
The initiative was officially launched in September at an event hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister through the Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC) (which covers Environment) the Honorable Daryl Vaz, and the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), the Honorable Karl Samuda.
The 4-year initiative will provide access to financing and markets, training and technical assistance to help small-scale farmers, women, and youth start aquaponics enterprises. Aquaponics is an innovative food production technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production in water) in a closed symbiotic system. Advantages of aquaponics include crop production at least ten times higher than traditionally farmed plots of equivalent size, 85-90% less water consumption than traditional irrigation, low energy consumption, year-round crop production and flood and drought resilience.
Smallholder farmers have started climate-smart aquaponics agri-business enterprises in Jamaica. Credits: INMED
Smallholder farmers have started climate-smart aquaponics agri-business enterprises in Jamaica. Credits: INMED
INMED has been working to improve the health, education, safety and opportunities of Jamaica’s most vulnerable citizens through adaptive agriculture, school gardening, climate change adaptation, nutrition education, positive youth development, and teacher training programs since 2002.
INMED’s in-country affiliate, INMED Caribbean, will implement the “Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture” program in partnership with the MICAF, MEGJC, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Inter-American Development Bank/Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF), United Nations Environment Programme-Danish Technical University Partnership, and Jamaica’s Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA).
Tanesha Wallace attended the launch event and is one of the many interested farmers who will be participating in the program. For the past year, she has been experimenting with a home aquaponics system comprising a plastic bin of catfish and four shelves of vegetable plantings. It has been a labor of love, but it hasn’t been promising as a source of income—that is until she learned of INMED’s new program in Jamaica.
As one of the program’s first participants, Tanesha and other budding entrepreneurs will learn the many advantages of aquaponics for improving food security; adapting to climate change; providing greater access to fresh, nutritious and local food; protecting the environment, and bolstering community development.
INMED is working with the Development Bank of Jamaica and local financial institutions to provide smallholder producers access to affordable financing to start aquaponics enterprises and facilitate loan repayment. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will be providing the funding for local RADA agricultural extension agents to provide technical training and assistance in aquaponics to farmers in their communities to grow the program and ensure sustainability.
We at CDB understand the role that aquaponics enterprises can play in supporting economic growth in Jamaica and the livelihoods of entrepreneurs and their families,” said Darran Newman, Acting Division Chief, Technical Cooperation Division, Caribbean Development Bank. “Capacity-building is also key to developing this high-potential sector, and we are pleased to collaborate with other partners on this project.”
Caribbean Development Bank has committed USD180,000 through the Bank’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services Network to support training that will increase awareness and understanding of aquaponics farm management and help participants start or expand aquaponics farms.
A sneak-peak into the fish tanks. Credits: INMED
A sneak-peak into the fish tanks. Credits: INMED
The "Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA)" program participants will attend a series of educational workshops on everything from the technical aspects of constructing and maintaining an aquaponic system to business planning to identify profitable markets for their produce and fish. Participants will receive hands-on technical assistance throughout and after the program.
My main goal is to have a registered family-owned business from this venture to achieve financial security for myself and family, especially my mother, who is solely caring for herself and my two youngest siblings and her grandson,” says Wallace.
Tanesha is just the sort of person we’re trying to reach,” says Dr. Linda Pfeiffer, President and CEO of INMED Partnerships for Children. “With the right tools and resources, Jamaicans can transform their future and local economies sustainably.”
For more than 30 years, INMED has worked quietly in the background to coalesce governments, communities, the private sector and other partners to find lasting solutions for breaking complex cycles of poverty around the world. “It’s an extremely difficult process,” says Pfeiffer, “but we have achieved lasting outcomes that have improved the lives of millions of children and their families.
About the author
Nancy Croft Baker is the Communications Director for INMED Partnerships for Children, a nonprofit international development organization that has worked in more than 100 countries to help create a world where all children are safe, healthy, educated and have access to opportunities to thrive. Through multisector partnerships and in-country affiliates, INMED builds effective systems that deliver innovative and sustainable approaches to break complex cycles of poverty for current and future generations. INMED’s programs in climate-smart agriculture and aquaponics, maternal and child health and nutrition, and neglected tropical disease prevention have made a sustainable impact on the lives of millions of children and their families since 1986. INMED currently has in-country affiliates in Latin America, the Caribbean, and southern Africa, as well as in Northern Virginia in the US. Before joining INMED, Ms. Baker was a long-time magazine writer and editor as well as a marketing and communications consultant.