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The Hopeful River Project: Safe water for farmers

To provide farmers with clean water for irrigation, with the aim of improving the health standard of their produce and penetrate new markets

Photo of Milha
5 10

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Here are two problems we seek to address. First, the agriculture fields by the Akaki River are irrigated with polluted water resulting in produce containing heavy metals harmful to health. Second, farmers flood markets with same produce at the same time, leaving large quantities of unsold vegetables that go to waste. Our solution addresses both of these issues in tandem, helping farmers to capitalize on healthier produce while connecting with high value consumers. Farmers will be able to capitalize on their healthier produce and connect with high value consumers such as hotels and restaurants by demonstrating through labelling and communications that this produce is of higher quality. This improved communication with customers will have two positive effects: the first is that the produce will be healthier, and the second is that farmers will have more proactive dialogue with key customers such as hotels and restaurants. This second factor is an important (and often overlooked) element for these farmers in that it provides direct market signals in terms of which crops to grow based on demand, and this is a critical piece of reducing food waste. In other words, by taking practical, significant steps to work with local farmers to provide clean irrigation water, the project will both improve the overall health outcomes for people who consume the produce, and strengthen the market resilience through better existing customer relationships and the entry into new local markets.

WHO BENEFITS?

Small Scale Farmers: Farmers are able to increase their revenue by reducing vegetable waste through access to customers with higher purchasing power, increase their public health profile and have their produce recognized publicly. Consumers: Those living in or visiting Addis Ababa will now enjoy the choice of purchasing vegetables that will not threaten their health. Ecosystem: The economic value of clean water will raise awareness on the value of healthier ecosystem.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

The Hopeful River project is a small team of individual collaborators, who are determined to rehabilitate the Akaki River by reducing human impact and the effects of contaminated water on the local population. The team is based in Addis Ababa and New York with expertise in science and social fields



Summary of Idea


Level  of vegetables contamination 

Approximately 496 hectares of land is being farmed using the the polluted water of the Akaki River. Studies have shown that vegetables grown using this water are contaminated by heavy metals - look at table one for details of contamination level and the maximum permissible amount of contamination. These heavy metals have detrimental effect to human health both to consumers and producers and their presence in food needs to be limited.

 Table 1

Image title
Source: B.S. chandravanshi AAU (2012)


Water filtration system

Two filtration systems to treat the irrigation waters have been chosen due to the appropriateness of the technologies. These are the anaerobic filtration system and water hyacinths both can treat effluents, grey, black and brown water.  All the materials required for building these filtration systems can be sourced locally and managed by the farming communities and the vegetable growers association under which all the farmers by Little Akaki are organized. The filtration systems are semi central and small- scale providing the convenience and opportunity for easy installation along the river  at designated intervals. Since the two filtration systems have different capacities they will be used concurrently to complement  their strengths and weakness. While the anaerobic system removes all the biological and organic matter the hyacinths will remove the heavy metals.

Anaerobic system: is a fixed bed biological reactor with one or more filtration chambers in series. As wastewater flows through the filter, particles are trapped and organic matter is degraded by the active biomass that is attached to the surface of the filter material. It is a good system for limited space availability, which is the case in Addis Ababa. The materials used to filter the water include gravel, crushed rocks or bricks, cinder, pumice, or specially formed plastic pieces and bacteria build up.  


Anaerobic filtration system



Water hyacinths: have the ability to heavy metals are taken up by the roots of the plant and transported to the shoots and other plant tissues, where they are concentrated. Moreover harvesting and burning water hyacinths can extract valuable heavy metals from its ash. Water hyacinths thrive in wastewater environments, and are particularly efficient at removing heavy metals. As long as water hyacinths are being used in a controlled environment such as a constructed pond, and removed periodically to hinder over growth, it is an efficient and cost effective treatment system. Also since the idea is to implement as small-scale filtration system the hyacinths need to be removed more frequently.


water hyacinths in a constructed pond


Market access and labelling

The second phase in accessing new markets is through labelling of products, to give public health conscious consumers the opportunity to buy higher quality products. This will give the small-holder farmers a niche that arguably would expand their market share which currently focuses on local consumers to providing coroperate entities, hotels and restaurants.


Why The Hopeful River Project

1) Because we are first and foremost local experts working with local farmers who understand the current circumstances, challenges and opportunities; 
2) Because we are working with existing, low-tech, proven technologies that can make a difference quickly; 
3) Because we are determined to break the cycle of the negative impacts of rapid development on a city we love.

Attachments (1)

Tinishu Akaki Analysis Results Summary.pdf

Testing and analysis of contaminants found in the little Akaki River done by the 'Hopeful River Project'. The document also explains the impact of these contaminants on human health.

5 comments

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Photo of Valentin Schuetz
Team

Very interesting! I livenext by the vegetable fields and shop from tbe markets.  I have no way of telling which veg is contaminated and which is safe.  So as abuyer and consumer its really bad. I hear the same concerns from many people Starting with the farmers is the right thing i guess.  Not much hooe that the city council has ways of adresding this anytime soon. I hope you can get tbe project working so a Vegetarian Diet is no longer a health hazard in Addis!  V

Photo of Julia Mauser
Team

Dear Milha,
congratulations to you and your team for this exciting and truly courageous project initiative.
I particulary like the idea of new markets, many times i imagined a beautiful restaurant on the banks of the rivers in Addis which will give the customer a feel for a local community . Seeing the produce grow and consumed in the same place is something not only inherent to our nature but will have a huge impact on our city and how we perceive our enviromnet. I imagine also an educational  place for children that can learn about indigenous plants and food, all aspects which seem to have been neglected in the urban environment for too long.
I guess the most difficult challenge is to choose the right site, meaning that anything above the place chosen has to be carefully investigated in terms of contamination, future industrial development planned by the city etc. It would need a very strong community approach involving not just the specific local community but all of them along the river, it might also need other incentives for those stakeholders like a common walkway along the waterfront or anything that might strengthen their commitment and involvment. 
I suggest to  look more closely into the potentials of plants filtrating the water, there is many examples of indeginous plants, filtering individual substances beyond the hyacinths, like banana trees, so I would suggest you to widen your team with a permaculture specialist to introduce more natural systems for unoccupied river territories.
I wish the Hopeful River Project to succeed and have many more successors to come. Be an inspiration for the next generation by involving the youth!

Photo of Milha
Team

Dear Julia, Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments!
Public participatjon is a strong component of the hopeful river project,  we understand that engagement with the coommunity is really important especially with those that work and live by the river  and use it regularly.  We are budgeting the bulk of our time initially on this.

The project has a wide long term vision among wich encouraging sustainable bussinesses around the river is one.   Along with this we are currently seeking partnerships with organisations working with schools inorder to engage the youth.  

Thank you for your suggestion on phytoremediation with local varieties of plants, we have botanist on the team and we are exploring options. On sight selection similarly to your suggestion we want  to appproach it systematically, and consider different parameters such as type of contaminants in the water,  willingness of community members,  avalabilty of space,  future government plans and our current capacity before we make a  choice.  

Finally Julia,  we are aleays looking to expand our team of volunteers  so please keep in touch.  

Photo of Mahlet Teshome
Team

A relevant project of its time!! Has such a huge potential to transform the course of business-as-usual way of things in a location that is one of many in the city of Addis. Will be a milestone in history once fully implemented. Good luck team! 

Photo of Lorraine Smith
Team

Thanks, Mahlet! We agree :-) It will take a collective effort and a new way of thinking but we certainly believe it's possible, and worth going for. Thanks for your support!