Fresh produce for learners from poor communities

Some of the Mondeléz International Foundation learners that will benefit from the new aquaponics system.
Some of the Mondeléz International Foundation learners that will benefit from the new aquaponics system.

THE Mondeléz International Foundation, Mondelez South Africa and INMED Partnerships for Children recently launched their new aquaponics facility at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Government officials, the private sector and local schools were treated to a tour of the facility, one of two commercial-sized aquaponics units that the foundation and INMED are building as part of their R37 million Health in Action programme.

Aquaponics is an innovative food production technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less crop production, with the cultivation of plants in water).

The facility at NMMU will provide children from primary schools in low-income communities of Port Elizabeth with access to fresh, nutritious produce.

INMED has been working in South Africa for over ten years where it has pioneered aquaponics production to promote healthy nutrition and income generation. A second aquaponics system will provide healthy, nutrient-rich produce to primary schools in the Soweto area.

Construction of this system will begin later this year.

“Daily consumption of fresh produce is widely acknowledged as key to a well-balanced diet, yet for many in low-income communities, healthy food choices are often out of reach,” said Joost Vlaanderen, Mondelez South Africa’s Managing Director. “The aquaponics facilities will help address this challenge.”

Health in Action is a four-year primary school-based wellness program that was launched in 2015 and which is funded by the foundation and implemented by INMED in South Africa.

It aims to nurture a sustainable, healthy lifestyle culture in schools and communities to help build a healthier future for South Africa’s children.

“Health in Action reaches more than 100 000 primary schoolchildren annually aged six to 12 in 116 schools in 13 at-risk communities in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape,” said Unathi Sihlahla, Program Director of INMED South Africa.

“Its three main goals are to ensure school children from disadvantaged communities have access to nutritious food, get enough physical exercise and learn about nutrition through the national school curriculum.”

The Port Elizabeth aquaponics system is approximately 223 square metres in size and will at maximum capacity produce approximately two tons of various greens and approximately 1,9 tons of fish annually.

It will provide fresh produce to supplement the nutritional needs of children at various schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan area.

While fish will be harvested twice a year, vegetables will be available throughout the year once the system is running. The facility comprises five fish tanks filled with tilapia, as well as nine grow beds planted with a variety of fast-growing crops.

Lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are among the nutritious, organic fresh produce that is being grown in the system.

The aquaponics plant will also provide research opportunities for agricultural students from NMMU.

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