Best known for its Blue Mountains, golden beaches, coral reefs, and reggae, Jamaica beckons visitors from around the world to come enjoy its natural and cultural riches. But to the rapidly growing global community of activists, researchers and scholars in agriculture, food security, nutrition, and climate change, Jamaica offers much more—the opportunity to explore the country’s vital and innovative work in these critical fields. That exciting work will be the focal point for learning and sharing knowledge and know-how at the first Harvest the Future International Symposium presented by INMED Partnerships for Children.
From June 14 to 17, 2015, a diverse group of experts will gather to explore the challenges and opportunities that climate-smart agriculture offers to enhance human well being while protecting the environment. In the collaborative workshops and field trips of this inaugural symposium, you can learn about encouraging programs in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, share new research, access enlightening academic papers, and hear authorities in the field discuss the economics, construction, training, and practical applications of the promising farming technique called aquaponics.
At local farms and agriculture schools, you can experience a unique and integrated form of aquaponics in action and also learn from practitioners across the globe how aquaponics is:
- Offering stable crop production and food security
- Providing families with a means of sustainable income generation
- Transforming smallholder farming communities
- Generating opportunities for public/private partnerships
- Inspiring a new generation of farmers who are truly Harvesting the Future
Climate Change: The Challenge Is Heating Up
Listening to the voice of science, we understand all too well the potential impact of catastrophic climate changes on our planet. And as the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report makes clear, the outlook for developing countries is especially dire.
“Life in many developing country cities could become practically unbearable, given that urban temperatures are already well above those in surrounding countryside,” The Guardian wrote. “Much higher temperatures could reduce the length of the growing period in some parts of Africa by up to 20%.”
As a result, Oxfam estimates, the number of people at risk of hunger might climb by 10% to 20% by 2050, with daily per-capita calorie availability falling across the world. Agriculture, as we know, is a huge part of the problem; along with fossil fuels and land use, it is one of one of the three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases. [I would stop here and include a footnote that refers to the study. There are other causes of climate change as well, and we do not want to bash the industries that are looking for alternative solutions while feeding the world]
The good news is that at the local and regional level, new ways to address the urgent challenges of creating sustainable food systems are beginning to emerge. From Gaza to Jamaica, small-scale food production projects demonstrate sustainable practices in real-world situations that are transforming communities and creating opportunities for people and the planet.
Aquaponics: A Practical Solution
In its programs in South Africa, Peru, and Jamaica, INMED Partnerships for Children is discovering that one highly effective solution is aquaponics. A food production technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production), aquaponics is surfacing as a means of advancing:
- Climate action through small-scale sustainable agriculture.
- Livelihoods and sustainability by overcoming food security issues with climate-smart approaches to small-scale agriculture.
- Practical innovations gleaned from strategies and lessons learned from field deployments of aquaponics and other intensive, climate-smart agricultural techniques.
We are discovering through our projects in South Africa, Peru, and Jamaica that by growing nutritious vegetables together with fish, it is possible to have intensive production at lower cost. You can conserve resources, using less water and land and no chemicals. Aquaponic systems are also scalable: a system can be constructed and managed to feed a family or for income generation through commercial sale of the fish and produce.
For example, in our Adaptive Agriculture Program in Jamaica, South Africa and Peru, we are finding that:
- Aquaponic systems can be at least 10 times as productive as equivalently sized plots that are traditionally cultivated (in some cases over 50 times), and they protect both the quantity and quality of water resources by requiring no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and utilizing 85%–90% less water than traditional irrigation techniques.
- Aquaponic tanks in Jamaica produce tilapia, a hardy, fast-growing and widely consumed fish, and nutritious fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs that provide for food security among families, schools and agricultural cooperatives. In other parts of the world we are experimenting with other types of locally available fish, for example Amazon river fish in Peru and catfish in South Africa.
- A single low-maintenance tank and grow-bed system can meet the nutritional needs of a family of four, plus additional fish and produce can be sold to generate household income.
But the promise of aquaponics is seen most quickly and clearly on a commercial scale. With INMED’s simplified modular design that uses off-the-shelf, local materials, the system is not only relatively inexpensive but it also allows farmers to scale up their systems as income allows, with a strong return on investment. The fruits of their labor bring premium prices for favored produce at local markets, hotels and restaurants.
The aquaponics programs are also resulting in better nutrition in school meals, opportunities for the disabled, increasing self-sufficiency, and renewed interest in agriculture among young people.
Ready for Fresh Thinking About Agriculture?
In the first of a series of videos on why INMED is so excited about aquaponics and fully committed to its development, founder Linda Pfeiffer, talks about its potential impact on five key areas of concern: Food Security and Nutrition, Environment, Opportunity, Money and The Future.
“A growing global population, inequitable distribution of healthy foods, climate change—these are just a few of the factors that demand fresh thinking about agriculture,” Dr. Pfeiffer says. “The world clearly requires solutions that are high-yielding, environmentally sustainable, and nutritious, and we believe that aquaponics can play a big role in supporting these challenges.”
This video provides a helpful introduction to the field of aquaponics and its global promise. But to see these pioneering solutions in action and learn more about their real-world applications from experts who are making them work, come to Jamaica and Harvest the Future.