Abundance from Scarcity
How do you grow vegetables when the soil is dry, space for farming is extremely limited and there is no water available? The answer lies in an innovative combination of fish, plant tubs, pumps and pipes.
In southern Honduras, World Renew partners with Diaconia Nacional of Honduras for an agricultural project that’s having a big impact using aquaponics.
Aquaponics combines two different types of food production methods into one for an efficient recirculation system. First is aquaculture, which is all about raising fish and shellfish.
Second is hydroponics, which is the process of raising plants in water with no dirt needed. When you combine these two systems, they complement each other perfectly. The fish give off ammonia in their excrement, and with the help of several bacteria, that ammonia is eventually converted into nitrates that will fertilize the growing plants.
The aquaponics project was launched in southern Honduras, a place that is uniquely affected by the effects of climate change.
Laura Soriano, a preventive health coordinator and a part of the staff implementing this project, notes, “This part of the country is known as the dry corridor. Sometimes in the summer the temperatures go too high …. In the dry corridor, high temperatures happen regularly and summers are extremely long – no rain at all.
“Farmers during this time face the challenge of losing their crops. They wonder if it is even worth it to plant because they are losing so much of their crops.”
Dilia Aguiriano, executive director of Diaconia Nacional of Honduras, agrees. “There is no food in those communities. How do we take care of the kids [that live here]? How do we fill them? Because of the hurricanes last year, 80 percent of the crops were a complete loss.”
The food shortages and lack of job opportunity is causing severe hardship. One in five Hondurans live in extreme poverty. In rural areas, 75 percent of all family income is used to buy food.
Aquaponics is proving to be a valuable tool in combating food insecurity. Families that used to only have access to beans and rice are now able to produce fresh vegetables and red tilapia all year round.
World Renew has provided these aquaponics systems to around 100 families. That’s almost 500 individuals now getting high-quality nutrition.
The effects of climate change in this region are creating barriers to standard food production that are hard for small scale farmers to overcome. That’s another benefit of the aquaponics system.
Even in the midst of drought conditions and high temperatures, these setups can continue to produce high yields. Plus each system can be tailored to the unique situations of the family using it.
Compared to other types of farming, managing the aquaponics system requires only about one hour each day of a family’s time. Eight different crops are supported, using native crops and seeds and each system produces 20-25 pounds of fresh food every month.
According to one participant, produce and fish used to be too expensive to obtain. But now? She and her family have all they need. “My backyard has very hard soil so I cannot grow anything very easily, and even when I try, it won’t produce much.
“But with this [aquaponics] project, I know it will produce abundantly. I have tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, oregano, onions, and celery. We now have fresh vegetables!”
For Maria, another participant, using aquaponics has allowed people in her neighborhood to earn extra income and provide a needed service.
“This has been a success for me and my family. Also for my community, because people come to my house to buy my produce. So in this manner, we have more food stability. People know that we have these vegetables and the fish.”
The needs in Honduras can be overwhelming, admits Aguiriano. “What we are doing is very small in comparison and sometimes we get frustrated. Yet when we see all the people that are very excited to have water and to have their own gardens, that is very special.
“That’s what makes us go on, to get up and go visit these communities. It makes us think and look for new alternatives, for how to innovate. I know this is God’s grace. We are being led by him.”