AFRICAN YOUTH EMPLOYMENT INITIATIVES AYEI GETS AWARDED BY THE GOVERMENT AS A BEST DISTRICT FARMER IN JUABEN MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLY, ASHANTI REGION
Early this year African Youth Employment Initiatives AYEI started the implementation of its awarded projected by African Union Bureau for Animal Resources, a project that was to establish an aquaponics-based food system to raise fish and train the youth, especially the women to embrace this new technology. The projected that was sited at Nobewam community of Juaben Municipal Assembly saw massive success from its inception as local authority , both government and traditional manifested vivid support of a project that aimed , not only to improve the lives of trainees , but also a project whose innovation and technology in fish farming marked a revolution in aquaculture.
DRIVERS AND RATIONALE BEHIND THE INNOVATION
The project was innovated to mitigate issues related to environment protection, whereby, instead of having massive land opening to give space to fish ponds, we rather thought of relatively small mounted ponds out of locally sourced materials to avoid earth digging. What made our innovators come up with this new technology was to attempt solving dilemma fish farmer’s encounter when it comes to access to water, access to lands, access to technologies, diseases outbreak control, etc.
We adopted this technology to create a system where the youth we train, gain skills and capacities required to start this venture, whereby they create jobs in the value chain, and we give them knowledge they can also pass around for more jobs to be created in rural areas. We realized that to participate in the fight against hunger, we need to find models that could increase yields, make accessible fish products and by so doing , improve health of the people as we transform our fish products into nutritious products needed to fight malnutrition and health related diseases. Fish consumption was an alternative to other animal products that could be seen as less health for people in this area of diseases.
This system makes it possible to associate fish and vegetable farming, an activity that can equally provide income to families, especially woman who may not have rights to big lands.
We wanted a job creating system, a money making machine where propagators are women who are seen as economically less advantaged in our rural villages.
THE INNOVATION THAT EARNED US AN AWARD AS FISH BEST FARMER
Our innovation consists of building and mounting in different ways, an aquaponics based food system comprising of a construction of a mechanized borehole that, by help of a solar power system, feeds water into mounted ponds. The same energy supply powers the machines in the ponds. This model is an innovative technology which consists of essentially raised circular or rectangular ponds out of different materials (4m length by 3m width and 1m depth) constructed using local materials. 30W AC submersible water pump (located at one side of the fish tank) facilitates waste collection and ensures continual aeration and circulation of pond/tank water. An installed bio filter cleans and oxygenates the water and the sedimentation tank mesh setup constitutes a rich habitat for nitrobacteria that helps in breaking down nitrites in water into nitrates, which can readily be absorbed by plants. The system is designed to allow collection of fish faucal waste as compost raw material to be used in compost making. The compost produced is used as soil amendment and source of nutrients for the cultivation of crops, reducing the use of conventional inorganic fertilizers. The aquaponics system involves the channeling of fish waste from the ponds as the main source of nutrient-rich irrigation water for crop production
The ponds are regularly emptied through the outer bucket and the water from the ponds which contains very rich nutrients is used to irrigate the vegetables around the ponds, reducing the use of chemical fertilizer as this water is enough to make a very nice garden producing all types of vegetables all year round.
To add value to fish products, the innovation is to produce these fish that are later smoked by our constructed smoking plant and transformed into many other marketable products such as fish fillets and nuggets …on high demand by our identified off takers .
The same innovation produces rich organic vegetables that are on high demand on our local markets or consumed by farmers themselves.
We train the youth into: Different ponds lay out designs where we involve them during constructions and we train them on maintenance of all the associated gadgets and machines, how to feed and raise fish for a six month cycle.
Its level of inclusivity is high as both educated and non-educated youth many of whom are women, are trained to work in the value chain to make the system a symbiosis relationship where many of them get involved during vegetable cultivation, marketing of fish products etc It is a type of farming designed for marginalized physically handicapped as feeding and taking care of the fish can be done by some people with limited mobility as it is labor less intensive. We designed it to also help retired people or those in advanced age who would like to still have a reliable source of income to cater for their needs in their old age and also make them produce healthy products that can maintain their good health as they age. In the era of COVID-19 pandemic, the innovation is best fit as one may comfortable stay at home while farming in the backyard of the home.
Besides of its economic, social and environmental impact, this type of farming provide healthy products that are consumed by people in rural areas who would have find it hard to get. Consuming vegetables and fish products is essentially a good health improving activity that at long run benefits everyone. Making available these varieties of vegetables in a great quantity, it also reduces the cost and makes it affordable and accessible to everyone
Linking our project to Information communication Technology
In our efforts to adhere to the protocols of the prevention of propagation of the COVID 19, we thought of designing an e-learning hub where our trainees continuously get abreast with technicalities and good practices related to this farming. We designed a mobile application where we release information on how to maintain the system at all its stages. This help farmer’s keep receiving information on each stage from ponds designs and construction to fingerlings soaking ponds to the day of harvest…vegetable cultivation, fish smoking etc. A WhatsApp group is animated by our experts who shares relevant information regarding caretaking and whatever we deem fit to inform our subscribed trainees.