Aquaponics is an idea that has been developing over the last 30 years and is becoming more and more well known. We are seeing plenty of amazing reasons as to why these systems are necessary in our growing world. Aquaponics provides us with a constant supply of fresh greens and protein, requires little maintenance and preserves precious fresh water reserves.
Why do we need to start using aquaponics in developing countries?
- In 2010, there were 925 million hungry people in the world; 19 million in developed countries, 37 million in Near East and North Africa, 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 239 Million in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 578 million in Asia and the Pacific. This means that approximately 1 in 7 people are hungry.
- Protein- energy malnutrition is the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger. It is a lack of calories and protein; protein is necessary for key bodily functions including provision of essential amino acids and the development and maintenance of muscles. Bringing aquaponics into third world countries would help prevent this problem by providing fish as a main source of protein.
- Poor nutrition is the cause or partial cause for at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year.
- The number of hungry people has increased since 1997 due to three main problems: 1) neglect of agriculture relevant to very poor people by governments and international agencies; 2) worldwide economic crisis and 3) increase in food prices.
- Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year.
- Malnutrition affects about 32% of children in developing countries.
- More than 70% of malnourished children live in Asia.
- Undernourished pregnant women in developing countries leads to 1 out of 6 infants born with low birth weight; this means higher neonatal death rates, increased occurrences of learning disabilities, mental retardation, poor health, blindness, and premature death.
- There is enough food to provide everyone in the world with 2, 720 kilocalories per person per day, however many people don’t have the land to grow or the money to buy the food they need for themselves and their children.
- 1 out of 3 people in developing countries are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiency; three extremely devastating ones include:
- Vitamin A: deficiency can cause blindness and reduce the body’s resistance to disease. Between 100 and 140 million children are vitamin A deficient, with the use of aquaponics we could bring fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A to these countries.
- Iron: two billion people are anemic which can lead to premature birth, infections, and impaired physical and cognitive development. Fish and fish eggs can provide these people with iron that they need.
- Iodine: Iodine Deficiency Disorder can impair someone’s mental abilities drastically. Fish and certain vegetables such as seaweed (which would require a saltwater aquaponics system) and strawberries contain iodine.
How can we introduce aquaponics in developing countries when they don’t have the resources that first world countries have?
In many areas, there is no electricity available that is needed for many aquaponics systems; developing countries require simplicity, reliability, and freedom from the need of grid power. Travis Hughey has developed a system, with grow beds made out of plastic barrel halves, that can be electric, gas, or wind driven and can work with flow rates lower than 100 gallons per hour. His design only requires one pump, no timers, no float valves, and the pump runs continuously. Travis has successfully grown cucumbers, beans, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and papaya. Bringing aquaponics to third world countries with his type of system would provide the population with a chance to have the fresh greens and protein that is required for a nutritious diet.
Though world hunger will not end overnight, researchers are developing more ways for us to lend a hand to others in need. Aquaponics is one way to bring much needed food sources to third world countries.
Do you think first world countries contribute enough to those developing countries struggling with undernourishment and poverty?