Promoting Integrated Fish and Crop (Aquaponics) Commercial farming in Refugee settings in Uganda
Building hope, esteem, joy and harmony among refugees and host communities in Uganda
Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo delivered by buses at Kisoro refugee reception and temporary holding site. Source CAFOMI
Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being registered by CAFOMI, HIJIRA and UNHCR officials in Kisoro temporary refugee holding/ reception site. These were later distributed to the various refugee settlements in south western Uganda, including Nakivale and Kyaka II settlement. Source CAFOMI
This is a fish tank built with bricks, cement and sand designed to hold 7,500 cat fish and 5,000 tilapia. This system is suitable for refugee host-communities. Wastewater from these tanks is used to irrigate nearby gardens. It is an excellent organic fertilizer. Details of costing can be found in the attached innovation description. It is suitable for commercial Aquaponics farming. 23 of these tanks are established Hoima, Wakiso and Adjumani districts. Source WGI
Metallic fish tank in the background connected to grow-beds. This is the tank suitable for refugee settings. It has maximum capacity of 1200 cat fish or 800 tilapia. It is 3x2x1.5m length, width and height dimensions fitted with a tarpaulin or PVC plastic liner. It is the subject for this proposal. This is our prototype that we are promoting suitable for semi-commercial farming. Source WGI
This system may be using locally available materials such as timber and metallic frames for the exoskeleton with a tarpaulin or PVC plastic liner. We have two of these structures set up in Hoima and Adjumani. Wood structures were abandoned because they are expensive and have a short lifespan. More focus is on the prototype and brick-cement structures as well as circular plastic tanks. Source WGI
Integrated fish and horticultural crop (Aquaponics) farming refers to an approach that combines fish farming (aquaculture) and soil-less crop farming (hydroponics). Crops are grown on grow-beds either containing gravel and sand or a plastic floating base on water with perforations where to place/plant seedlings. Fish are raised in a tank made of bricks-cement and sand or wooden/metallic frame lined with plastic sheet that holds the water. The fish-tank and crop-beds are connected by pipes. The crop-beds are also connected to a water collecting sump. How the system works is as follows: Water (wastewater) is drawn from the fish-tank and irrigated onto a crop growing in the grow-beds. The wastewater may be drawn out of the fish-tank by a pump or flows out by gravity into the grow-beds. If the wastewater is drawn out by gravity, the grow-beds are cascaded below the fish-tank at different levels to allow gravity flow of water. The grow-beds then filter the wastewater removing fish feces and residual fish feeds (organic materials), thus cleaning the water. The grow-beds also provide a surface-area on which the organics are broken-down (decomposed) by bacteria into nutrients (i.e. nitrites, nitrates & mineral salts) that are taken-up/ absorbed by the growing crop - this process further cleans (sanitizes) the water. The cleaned water drains from the crop-bed into a collecting sump. The water in the sump is then pumped back (using power) into the fish-tank. This water recycling process is repeated several times until the water is considered no longer fit for fish usually after 7 days in smaller fish-tanks and after a month in larger aquaponics systems and then replaced with freshwater. This is what is referred to as circular-aquaculture (aquaponics) In non-circular-aquaculture (open-circuit aquaponics) systems, the wastewater is drawn from the fish-tank and irrigated onto a crop growing in a nearby soil garden. Such water is never returned to the fish-tank, but is replaced with freshwater in the fish tank. This is what is referred to as integrated fish and crop farming. It is also a modification of the cyclic system intended to meet the demands of farmers who want to use the fish wastewater to irrigate crops growing in traditional soil-based gardens. The cyclic is more water efficient compared to the non-cyclic systems.
To ease the burden of circulating or moving water in the Aquaponics, the system is automated using regular grid electricity or solar energy. Solar energy is preferred especially in areas not served by grid electricity, which are the majority. Grid electricity only serves 26% of the Ugandan population. With declining fish stocks in the wild, inadequate and expensive fish and horticultural crop products on the market, Aquaponics is a useful approach of making fish and horticultural crop products available to households living in limited spaces as well as those faraway from traditional fishing areas. Refugees usually live in limited spaces and depend on handouts of food, clothes and housing. They also get free medical care. The food variety is usually restricted to beans, maize/ corn meal, and rice as the major food stuffs with occasional supplements of other foods. These food stuffs usually become monotonous- causing people to dislike them and do not offer the full range of nutritional requirements. Aquaponics offers a fresh source of fish protein, vitamins and mineral salts from horticultural crops (e.g. tomatoes, collard greens, green pepper, broccoli, onions, etc) and provides a full range of nutrients critical for normal functioning of the human body. Aquaponics also offers the households additional incomes from the sale of fish and horticultural crop products not consumed. These two food and income benefits are the main reason we are promoting Aquaponics. The other reasons are being able to use water more efficiently through recycling and reuse and saving water for other food value-chains or household processes, which is very important for refugee households who usually have limited access to water. This intervention is intended to contribute to the United Nation's Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) aspirations aimed at enhancing refugee resilience and self-reliance. Since refugees do not live in isolation, but are surrounded by a host-communities, it is important that our intervention is also shared with the host-community to avoid a feeling that refugees are being treated better than the host-community and therefore mitigate the potential risk of conflicts that could arise as a result of non-equitable benefit sharing. For purposes of this intervention, a contribution of 25% will be made to the host-community and 75% to the refugee community in terms of project benefits and implementation. The project also seeks to address the prevalent malnutrition exhibited in many host communities due to limited access to good quality protein, vitamins and mineral salts. The project will offer the 7.5 and 75 cubic meter fish-tank Aquaponics systems to the clients at shared cost (50%) for semi-commercial and commercial purposes. The reason for the shared-cost is that it enhances ownership and commitment to maintain the system properly. Our experience elsewhere where we have given the Aquaponics system free-of-charge have shown that clients/beneficiaries neglected the units, "considering them our units not theirs", resulting in the units' performing poorly. However, where farmers/ household have contributed 50% to its establishment, the performance is good - this is the basis of our adoption model. Also, the cost-sharing enables the project to support many more beneficiaries, because instead of spending the full cost of setting up the Aquaponics unit for one client, the project is able to setup for two individuals. The project targets refugees communities in Adjumani, Chaka II, Nakivale and Orukinga settlements as well as their host community. The refugees in these settlements are 204,987; 101,050; 123,348 and 123,340, respectively. These are among 234,300; 408,700; 576,300 and 576,300 host populations, respectively. We hope to work with the local governments, Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and other humanitarian actors operating in the refugee settings. This is intended to achieve project buy-in as well as to coordinate with other livelihoods interventions being undertaken by the other actors within the refugee - host community settings to avoid duplication or distortions. The advantage is that there are quarterly meetings that occur where such coordination is harmonized by the different actors including OPM - which is mandated to provide oversight on refugee interventions.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Refugees move into an area and change the dynamics of the society they enter, which could result in competition for natural resources (water, land, fuel-wood, etc) with host communities as well as discomfort among them. By virtue of being displaced, refugees initially do not have joy and peace among the society they reside. In addition, refugees depend heavily on hand-outs including food rations, money, shelter, clothes and medical-care, which undermines their independence, self-esteem and pride of fending for themselves. Refugees are usually restricted in movement and their ability to be involved in gainful employment. Food rations are comprised of standard food stuffs, with little or no alternative choice - leading to food monotony. This could trigger nutrient deficiencies. The lack of happiness among refugees is associated with loss of original livelihoods, homes and not getting other gainful and respectful employment opportunities in the host country. Humanitarian actors including the State often offer support skewed in favor of refugees - leaving host communities with a feeling of being left-out. There is need to offer balanced support. Host communities tend to suffer recurrent nutrient deficiencies due to the nature and quality of food stuffs available to them. Fish and horticultural crop (vegetables) products which are good sources of protein, vitamins and mineral salts are often lacking in their diet - consequently leading to nutrient deficiencies. Integrated fish and horticultural crop (Aquaponics) farming innovation offers an opportunity for refugees to produce own fish and vegetables at home as well as earn additional income. It also gives refugees opportunity to add fish and vegetable variety to their food rations and acquire a sense of satisfaction in the available foods. This will enhance their happiness knowing that they can earn a living; give them hope for a business after refugee life and sense of belonging. Similar benefit accrue to host residents
WGI metallic frame prototype Aquaponics fish tank was developed following inspiration from a farmer who wanted a relatively bigger fish tank compared to what we originally offered. This has capacity for 1200 cat fish and 800 tilapia. Source WGI
Geography of focus (500 characters)
Aquaponics targets refugees communities in Adjumani, Chaka II, Nakivale and Orukinga settlements as well as their host community. The refugees in these settlements are 204987; 101050; 123348 and 123340 individuals, respectively and they also live among 234300; 408700; 576300 and 576300 host populations, respectively. These are areas where refugees tend to stay for a long time (10-60 years) in contrast to the temporary refugee holding/reception sites.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Refugees occasionally come into a welcoming or hostile host communities and before long the situation changes. In addition, humanitarian actors often offer support skewed more to refugees than the host communities, which can trigger conflicts. Our project bridges the food and relational gaps between refugees and host-communities as well as securing harmony between the parties and balanced humanitarian and development support by all actors to refugee and host communities.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Aquaponics addresses the human need to be food and income secure and not to depend on others' handouts for survival. Refugees are people displaced from their original homes and livelihood sources and become heavily dependent on the goodwill of others for basic necessities of life such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care. While the goodwill is appreciated, it instills a sense of inadequacy among the beneficiaries, who feel not having control over the affairs of their lives. One's joy, hope of a good future and dignity of life comes with the ability to be in charge of one's life including the ability to have gainful employment, dignity, free movement and free association. This sense is often lacking when one is a refugee. Aquaponics offers refugees an opportunity to produce own food and earn income and have a sense of control over one's life i.e. what they eat, earn and hope for a potential business after refugee life.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
We shall know that we are creating positive change when at least 40 refugee households adopt Aquaponics each producing 0.5t fish and 0.2t vegetables per year. Refugees' dependency on food and money handouts will be reduced by 10%. Food monotony eliminated among refugee households practicing Aquaponics by introduction of fish and vegetables to the traditional refugee menu. Households practicing Aquaponics will sell 90% of their produce to other refugee households and earn extra income. 50% reduction in number of persons diagnosed with food related malnutrition. Humanitarian actors will mainstream Aquaponics as one of the livelihoods interventions in their programming. Refugees will exhibit healthier bodies and lives, because "you are what you eat". Aquaponics contributes towards the realization of the United Nations' Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework(UN-CRRF) agenda that seeks to attain self-sufficiency of refugees.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
Fish is the best protein source, while horticultural crop products are good sources of vitamins and minerals salts critical for a healthy body. Refugees tend to suffer prevalent nutrient deficiencies that can be sorted by these foods. Our inspiration is demystify access to fish which has for long been thought only possible from lakes, rivers and wetlands, but we are able to take fish farming to non-traditional inland fishing zones. Fish stocks in the wild are dwindling due to over-fishing and Aquaponics can contribute to the fish stocks on the market. It is fun to watch your fish eat and grow to market sizes and it brings joy that you made it happen. We are also inspired to bring on board many fish farmers that can be organized into cooperative arrangement to improve fish and horticultural crop product supplies, product prices and access to the market. The few individuals with fish farming knowledge are selfish and do not want others to learn fish farming. It is a smart practice.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
Refugees in Adjumani, Chaka II, Nakivale and Rukinga settlements tend to stay for many years and closely interact and share natural resources with the host communities. Competition over resources often triggers conflicts. Also, the skewed manner in which social goods and services is rendered by both the State and humanitarian actors leaves the host communities feeling left-out and this is recipe for further conflict. Refugees come freeing from conflicts in their original countries and so are not happy; have lost their original livelihoods; never seem to be settled or have a feeling of being aliens in their host country, even when Uganda has an "open-door policy" to refugees. There is need to assist refugees regain joy, peace and confidence in the host country as well as assist host communities not to feel left-out in the delivery of social goods and services by all humanitarian actors. The innovation contributes to bridging these gaps.
Refugees from South Sudan being registered at resettlement site in Adjumani District. Here they are allowed to stay until the conflict situation settles in their country of origin, which could take many years.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Aquaponics has already been introduced by WGI with some success in Kampala, Hoima, Kamuli, Wakiso and Adjumani districts where refugee settlements exist - meaning there is already appreciation of the innovation in the country. With this experience, we are confident to introduce the innovation with some success in Kaka II, Nakivale and Orukinga refugee settlements. Ugandans by nature are welcoming people that are willing to cooperate with foreigners. The open-door policy makes Uganda a good destination for refugees. In addition, Government has gazetted land for refugees. The welcoming nature of Ugandans, the policy and land makes it possible to introduce Aquaponics in refugee settings with little or no conflict. As part of avoiding conflict, some Aquaponics unit shall be setup in host-communities so that these communities do not feel left-out. Also clearances and approvals shall be sought from the relevant central and local government authorities
Cat Fish weighing 5kilograms harvested from a brick-cement fish Aquaponics tank in Wakiso district. System constructed by WGI for a female customer in 2016. She has so far earned the equivalent of US$34,520.55 from 4 fish tanks in a period of 18months, which is about $1,917.80 per month, suggesting that she is already far above the poverty line of $1.5 per day or $45 per month.
A video clip of a farmer in Kamuli district explaining his experience with Aquaponics. He insisted he wanted to communicate in English, even when he is not very fluent in the language, which was quite interesting.
A video in which Mr. Bazira Henry the Executive Director of Water Governance Institute was presenting Aquaponics at the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden 2016. During the plenary Aquaponics was appreciated as a viable livelihoods option for many households in developing Africa
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
- Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants - CAFOMI is a NGO already operating in the selected refugee settings. WGI has a partnership with CAFOMI to undertake joint actions. WGI and CAFOMI are already jointly promoting the innovation among refugees in Adjumani district
- World Food Program - WFP is a UN agency dealing with refugees in Uganda. WGI will work with WFP to introduce the innovation into refugee settings.
Office of the Prime Minister - OPM is a government entity responsible for providing refugee oversight. WGI shall seek clearance from OPM to implement the project in refugee settings
UNHCR will be interested in the quality of service WGI offers to refugees
UNFAO is already promoting development of the fisheries sub-sector in Uganda
Min. of Gender and Labour
Min. of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
Other Humanitarian actors
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Arriving and settling at a destination community
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology
Idea Proposal Stage
Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)
Group or Organization Name
WATER GOVERNANCE INSTITUTE (WGI)
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
Water Governance Institute (WGI) is research, training and advocacy NGO that deals in water, water associated natural resources (fisheries, forests, land, oil, gas & minerals) and related infrastructure. WGI was founded in 2008 and registered in 2009 as non-state actor. It later transformed its style of operation from the traditional charity organisation to more of a social enterprise. This was aimed at securing sustainability of interventions and reduce the dependency on grant funding. Solar-powered integrated fish & crop (Aquaponics) farming is the organization's agenda of promoting smart agriculture that enhances the household's resilience to climate change effects. WGI seeks to contribute to the development of Uganda's fisheries value-chain that remains underdeveloped for too long. WGI is the leading promoter of Aquaponics in Uganda. WGI operates in Adjumani refugee settings and seeks to intervene in Chaka, Nakivale and Orukinga settlements. WGI collaborates with the partners.
Type of submitter
We are a registered Non-Profit Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State
In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)
The questions in this regard were shared on the platform. What Aquaponics design option works best for refugee settings? Do we setup a centralized Aquaponics production facility in proximity to refugee settlements to supply products to refugees, considering that refugee live in limited spaces or do we setup individual household Aquaponics units of much smaller capacity per unit and thus have a cumulative effects of individual units?. The centralized facility is to some degree inward looking and has less development impact on the refugees than the latter approach. Smaller units have challenges
Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)
Yes we used the resources offered during the improve phase. We talked to Mr Biniam Fessehazion - who gave us insights on our proposals. From the discussion we realized that the title itself had a few challenges for the reader to understand exactly what was being focused on and how the proposal was going to address the refugees and host community. In response we transferred the terms that could cause misunderstanding in the title to the main text. We talked to Mr. Francis Iwa - Executive Director of Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants on the possibility of mainstreaming Aquaponics into the humanitarian livelihood programs and he advised that it was possible to do so and he linked us up to the Livelihoods working group of the humanitarian actors in Uganda that include UNHCR, WFP, OPM, UNDP, Red Cross, among others who meet quarterly every year. Preliminary discussion with this group has revealed that Aquaponics viable in refugee settings.
Learning have enable us redesign Aquaponics to larger fish-tanks (7.5m3 & above) due to risk associated with smaller fish-tanks and allowed flexibility in the materials used depending on availability and costs.
We learnt that it is important to automate Aquaponics units to reduce the labor burden farmers face moving water in and out of the fish-tanks. We also modified the alignment of the fish-tank and crop grow-beds to enable gravity from of water from the fish-tanks into the grow-beds and water collecting sump. The solar water pump then pumps the water back into the fish-tank.
During the introduction of Aquaponics in Adjumani and Hoima, it became apparent that this innovation could easily be introduced into the refugee settlements. This was realized when 10 households in refugee settlements adopted our Aquaponics units. It was this that inspired us to develop a dedicated project for refugees in Uganda.
In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funds will contribute to already existing program on Aquaponics and specifically support interventions dedicated to refugees/people on the move. Other funding sources received are general in nature and permitted a limited attention to refugees. The BridgeBuilder funds will enable us:
Create awareness and transferring knowledge and skills among refugees and host -communities about Aquaponics, especially in locations where the innovation has not yet been introduced such as Kaka, Nakivale and Orukinga settlements as well as expand coverage in Adjumani refugee settlements
Transforming Aquaponics units from being manual to automated systems and thus ease the workload farmers usually face with the manually operated units and enhance water-use efficiency among refugee households
What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)
The BridgeBuilder funds will an existing Aquaponics program in Adjumani and a new intervention in Chaka II, Nakivale and Orukinga refugee settlements.
Awareness-raising, technology and skills transfer $40,000
Extension and technical after-sales/ service support on Aquaponics among the 4 refugee and host-community settings $20,000
Fabricating and installing 20 aquaponics units to serve as demonstration sites i.e. 16 units in refugees and 4 units in host communities $30,000
Solar-powering 20 aquaponics demonstration units $10,000 four in each refugee settlement and 4 in host communities
Quarterly monitoring and evaluation of project progress, performance and successes $20,000
Reporting, accounting and auditing $10,000
Contribution to staff Salaries over a 30 month period $75,000
What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)
Key activities include conducting:
Awareness-raising, technology and skills transfer over an 18 months period
Extension and technical after-sales/ service support on Aquaponics among the 4 refugee and host-community settings over a 30 month period
Fabricating and installing 20 aquaponics units to serve as demonstration sites i.e. 16 units in refugees and 4 units in host communities over a 6 months period
Powering using solar energy 20 aquaponics demonstration units at refugee and host-community settings.
Quarterly monitoring and evaluation of project progress, performance and successes over 24 months period
Reporting, accounting and auditing
What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)
Impact: By 2022, we expect to attained 2500 and 1500 Aquaponics farmers among refugee and host-communities, respectively - 60% of which will be women owning semi-commercial units. Trained through awareness-raising exercises and the demonstrations 2.5 million individuals.
Measurement: We shall measure the number of refugee and host-community Aquaponics farmers; number of fish and horticultural crops stocked; yields (i.e. No. & kgs) harvested from the unit; and monetary value (real & estimated).
Question: How to we introduce Aquaponics in a sustainable and replicate-able manner among refugees and host-communities; be able to build the farmers into a network of 10,000 producers that can contribute to plugging the fish and horticultural crop product gap in homes and the market within the next 5 years.
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)
This project will be implemented in partnership with Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI). Water Governance Institute (WGI) shall be the lead implementer and fiscal agent. WGI shall be responsible for undertaking project activities, but will from time-to-time engage CAFOMI to undertake activities relevant to their role as a humanitarian actor and any other assignment that will from time-to-time be requested of them as per the attached MoU. CAFOMI will assign coordinating staff to the project at respective refugee settings that will collaborate with WGI staff. WGI will identify staff at local government level that will coordinate project activities among host-communities in collaboration with WGI staff. The attached organo-gram depicts the hierarchical flow of authority in project implementation. CAFOMI already has presence in the Refugee settlement and will facilitate WGI's access to the settlements.
Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)
Assumptions: Refugee settings will have sufficient space in which to install the Aquaponics units and have adequate and easily accessible water. Many refugees households will be willing to adopt Aquaponics.
Pivot or Change of Model: Yes. based on discussions we have had with national and international experts and other Aquaponics producers, we have included a circular fish tank model to the existing prototype to mitigate the significant hydraulic forces on the walls of rectangular fish-tanks. Instead of using wooden grow-beds, we opted to use plastic ones. We have modified the Aquaponics unit from manual to automated system.
Adaptation to Plans: Yes. our initial focus was 50:50 contribution to refugees and host-communities, but recognizing that Building Bridges focuses more on people on the move, we opted for 75:25 contribution ratio, respectively.