RUSSIAN State Atomic energy corporation (ROSATOM) has built two aquaponic greenhouses at a South African school in a drive to improving the sustainability of the school’s feeding programme and teaching aquaponic farming skills to the community.
The greenhouses were unveiled at Bokgoni Technical Secondary School in Atteridgeville, Pretoria by in a ceremony held on Monday.
Key spokespeople included Ryan Collyer, CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, Israel Sekoko, Chairperson of the South African Young Nuclear Professionals Society (SAYNPS), Gaopalelwe Santswere, President of African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) and Clive Mokoena, from South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).
“One of the advantages of aquaponics is the ability to produce environmentally friendly, fresh and healthy products in full compliance with the principle of sustainable development. The introduction and training of this advanced technology is an invaluable tool to improve the nutritional status of schools and to ensure food security for students and their families in the medium term. Moreover, this could be the foundation for the equitable and sustainable socio-economic growth of South Africa in the future,” said Collyer.
The United Nations forecast says that by 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.1-billion; this is 34 percent higher than today. With arable land and natural water declining due to rapid urbanisation, food production must increase by 70 percent to feed this larger, more urban population. The World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) encourages the development of alternative farming techniques such as aquaponics and hydroponics.
Aquaponic farming is an ecologically pure method of effective growing of plants in a recirculation system, and functions as a natural aquatic ecosystem. Aquaponics harnesses the power of bio-integrating individual components, such as water, fish, plants, and bacteria, just like in the wild. Under the sustainable development programme maintained by Rosatom, students and teachers attend a special training course to learn how to effectively utilize aquaponics technology. The course also covers other important considerations, such as water sourcing, plant and fish selection, and biosecurity.
Collyer pointed out that the development of aquaponics is key to food security in the long term. According to him, the aquaponics principle is based on the concept of sustainable development and environmental responsibility, which complies with Rosatom’s corporate values.
Together with Pretoria-based aquaculture and aquaponics company La Pieus Aqua (LPA), Rosatom will ensure the accessibility of healthy food for students and teachers at Bokgoni Technical School. The CEO of LPA, 18-year-old ecology activist Rikalize Reinecke started her own aquaculture and aquaponics farm in 2014. In her view, aquaponics is the most sustainable farming method of the new century. This system gives you the opportunity to process food in your backyard and generate a small income. One system can feed a family of four to six people sustainably.
Sekoko noted that the contribution was made not only to the sustainable development of the feeding system, but also to education; “We know from our own experience that it is impossible to think or perform on an empty stomach, so it is necessary to deal not only with the development of feeding system but also to clearly understand what impact it has on the younger generation.”
Santswere and Mokoena observed the importance of Rostatom’s partnership with SAYNPS and AYGN, and look forward to working together in the future. Santswere highlighted that the initiative should not only be realised in South Africa, but also to the rest of the continent; “this is fundamental in terms of Agenda 2063 objectives: ‘The Africa We Want’,” said Santswere.
“Necsa, through its partnership with Rosatom, celebrates the launch of the two aquaponic greenhouses at Bokgoni Technical School. This school is one of four schools here in Attridgeville that offer nuclear technology specialisation, sponsored by Necsa. The school focuses on improving Maths and Science, creating pipeline development for the nuclear sector, supporting teachers, improving labs and workshops for learning, and socio-economic initiatives for the surrounding disadvantaged communities,” Mokoena said.