Township schools explore wonder of aquaponics
Aquaponics is being used to teach pupils from Port Elizabeth township schools how science can be practically implemented to produce community food gardens.
While the Adaptive Agriculture programme was launched in 2016 at Nelson Mandela University’s Missionvale campus, Inmed SA programmes director Unathi Sihlahla said it had been rolled out to more schools across SA in 2019.
Inmed implements simple aquaponics systems for families, small-scale producers, communities, schools and businesses.
Sihlahla said integration of aquaponics into school curricula was an effort to meet the growing demand for practical skills and food security.
At least 70 Bay schools have benefited from the programme.
Aquaponics is a sustainable farming technique combining aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production) into a closed system that is resilient to climate changes.
“The programme allows teachers and pupils to visit the aquaponics site [in Missionvale] to learn about the technology,” Sihlahla said.
“Schools bring on average 15 pupils at a time to allow direct interaction with our agricultural facilitators, learning about different aspects of aquaponics, including the nitrification process, fish care and the importance of sustainable farming.
“These pupils share information with their peers in their schools and communities,” he said.
Nearly two tonnes of fish have been shared with schools in Motherwell, Kwazakhele, Zwide, New Brighton and the northern areas from the aquaponics system in Missionvale since its launch.
Kwazakhele-based Seyisi Primary School principal Nomonde Ntsundwana said aquaponics was useful not only for food production, but also for learning purposes.
“We try to take some of our pupils to the project in Missionvale regularly, as this is an opportunity to expose them to alternative ways of growing their own chemical-free food.
“In the near future we also hope to have our own aquaponics system on our premises,” Ntsundwana said.
Sihlahla said in 2019, Inmed had also been able to build two aquaponics systems in Graaff-Reinet with the assistance of a philanthropic foundation.