For my research, I'll be studying the cultural, technical, and economic feasibility of aquaponics in Uganda. What is aquaponics? Aqupaonic systems grow fish and vegetables together in water. It's a symbiotic relationship where the fish waste provides the nutrients to the plants while the plants and bacteria filter the water so the fish can survive. Aquaponics is six times more productive than conventional farming, requires 75% less energy than mechanized agriculture, and uses 80-90% less water. The problems are that the initial capital investment is expensive and aquaponics requires knowledge about managing water quality levels.
While aquaponics is not widely used in Uganda, there are a couple aquaponic systems. I'm hoping to visit these farmers and learn how they've designed their systems to work in Uganda. I also hope to interview conventional farmers, government officials, and materials suppliers to gauge their interest in aquaponics and get their input on an aquaponic system design for rural Ugandan farmers. I'm working with Dr. Moses Musaazi, a professor at Makerere University in Kampala, and Dr. Duncan Ongeng from Gulu University in Gulu.
I'm also working with an NGO called ChildVoice International (CVI) in Lukodi, Uganda. CVI is a Christian nonprofit organization that works with girls who were abducted and forced to become child soldiers by Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army. CVI helps the girls recover spiritually, emotionally, and physically while teaching them skills and trades to help them support themselves. When I went to Uganda last time with Engineers Without Borders, our team stayed at CVI, so I'm excited to go back and see these incredibly strong people and hear more of their stories. When not working on aquaponics, I hope to be able to volunteer and help CVI with their ministry work.
CVI's center in Lukodi (about a half hour drive outside of Gulu) has a farm and fish ponds, so I'm going to help CVI convert one of their fish ponds into an aquaponic system. Hopefully, other farmers in Lukodi will be able to copy the design and build their own aquaponic systems.
I know there will be many challenges and surprises, but I can't wait to see what adventures and life lessons await me in Uganda! I hope I will grow in my engineering skills, knowledge of international development, and understanding of Africa and its people. Stay tuned for updates!