Johannesburg - Ten years ago, Inmed South Africa introduced the first school-based aquaponics system in the country at Pudumo Primary School in Orange Farm. Today, the system is still going strong, along with Inmed Aquaponics across the nation.
Inmed is non-profit international development organisation that has worked in more than 100 countries for over 30 years to build pathways for vulnerable children and families to achieve well-being and self-reliance.
Using plans for a simplified system developed by its parent organisation, Inmed Partnerships for Children brought it to life.
“The tiny team of Khumbudzo Manyaga, who was Inmed’s adaptive agriculture programme manager at the time, Lucas Stander and myself dug the holes for the fish tanks and the cement grow beds foundations,” said Janet Ogilvie, operations manager for Inmed South Africa.
“After much discussion, we then built one fish tank and two grow beds to provide healthy fresh vegetables and fish for the school meals. For many learners at this school, this was the only meal of their day.”
Ogilvie recalls that the learners and teachers were fascinated by what the team was doing and excited to see the final product.
“The day of the fish delivery created such excitement. During break time, all the learners rushed to see the fish as most had never seen a live fish before.”
This was the start of a relationship between Inmed SA and Pudumo Primary school. In 2016, the school hosted the launch of the “health in action programme”, a school-based nutrition and healthy lifestyle initiative in partnership with the Mondelez International Foundation (MIF).
“It focuses on improving access to fresh produce via school gardens and aquaponics, as well as education and training for pupils, staff and parents on nutrition, physical fitness and making healthy choices,” said Ogilvie.
Pudumo Primary was their first choice for inclusion in the programme. The success of the programme is due in large part to school principal Johannes Seruoe. He is passionate not only about healthy eating, the importance of growing your own food and the nutritional status of children in his school, but also about the health of the greater Orange Farm community. The school is involved in assisting families in desperate need of food with donated food parcels.
During the lockdown last year and immediately afterwards, when the schools were still struggling with Covid-19, Seruoe said the vegetable garden at Pudumo had been a life saver for them. They managed to harvest enough spinach from the garden to feed all the children at the school.
Ogilvie said: “It really helped germinate a lasting passion for aquaponics and how it can help so many. One only has to look at the success of the project to appreciate the value it offers the community.”
Inmed South Africa has implemented Inmed Aquaponics in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Northern Cape.
“Our involvement with schools’ feeding schemes is so important because it generates an interest in farming in the children at a young age and is a key solution for strengthening food security, climate adaptation and sustainable livelihoods. It’s the future of farming in South Africa,” said Ogilvie.