With its ancient roots in Aztec and Chinese agriculture, aquaponics is by no means a new invention. However, The Pump, The Fish and The Garden takes this innovative method and uses it to provide food, nutrition and livelihood to poor communities in the Philippines.
This made the project a worthy finalist at the St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2017, where Dr Renato Vega, Volunteer Scientist at Community Hopes Alternatives Inc. (CHAI), presented to our Board of Trustees.
“We were so happy and excited to be a finalist. Happy because there would be a chance to scale up the project. Excited because we may win a prestigious award for helping the environment.”
Receiving $25,000 as a runner-up, the organization used this cash boost to move their project along even further.
"We attempted to implement the 3-for-all scheme. Our beneficiaries are the poorest people surviving on $1-$2 per day. They cannot afford to buy the aquaponic unit. Also, because they have insufficient food, they eat almost all of their produce, and have nothing left for sale. No income will mean non-sustainability. Based on these experiences, we implemented the “3-for-all” scheme. That is we provide 3 aquaponic units per household. Harvests from the 1st unit will be for the household food to address the nutrition problem. The harvest from the 2nd unit is for sale for the household income, and the remaining unit is also for sale but the net income will be collected by the project and will be used to recover the cost of aquaphonic sets and acquire additional units to reach other more beneficiaries. Though the intial test did not give results according to our expectation, we learned a lot.
“After testing the 3-for all scheme, we learned that we have to implement it in large scale in contiguous areas, i.e. a whole community or group of people. This is because a few practitioners will have a marketing problem if they only have a few products to sell, especially the vegetables. The fish on the other hand can be sold within the community.
“We will now focus on popularizing the project so that many other interested organizations will adopt it. We also have demonstration units set up in schools to serve as science education materials for young students.”
Being a finalist for the prize not only provided necessary funding, but also provided many other benefits for the project.
“We definitely benefited from exposure to this kind of competition. It was great to meet other innovative people and learn about their creative ideas.
“However small your project is, you should enter it. Sometimes you don’t realize that your project is good enough, and mature enough, to give a real impact to the community you are serving. The St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides a chance to let your project grow to serve people and protect the environment.”
Find out more about The Pump, The Fish and The Garden through their finalist page.