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Using Aquaponics as a Tool for Poverty Reduction and Promoting Entrepreneurship among youth in Tanzania.

Using Aquaponics technology and adopting youth led cooperatives in the Market Chanel to give practical entreprenueral skills & income.

Photo of Victor

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Aquaponics is a recirculating system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water. This closed-loop recirculating system uses water more efficiently than traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods thereby reducing the demand on water. Our idea will work with youth and youth led cooperatives in the market chanel. This will involve the youth directly as suppliers, distributors and consumers of subsidised fish from Aquaponics. They can sell the fish at market price to gain an income and practical entreprenueral skills. The future of Tanzania's economy set out by the current government is industrilisation. Our idea will prepare the youth for commercialised Agriculture which is set as a cornerstone in Tanzania's Five Year National Development Strategy. An important link in commercialised agriculture is the Market Channel between producers and consumers. Our idea is to train the youth, through cooperatives supplied with subsidised fish, on practical entrepreneural skills while making an income at the same time. A co-operative movement is a dynamic, creative mindset that roots long-term social value inside financial value. If we accord each youth in the cooperative the dignity of ownership we unleash a creativity and innovation on a scale few traditional ideas can imagine.


The idea is formed and operated to meet the needs of the members in the value chain who are the youth of Tanzania. The main beneficiaries in this model are the youth who are at the centre of the cooperatives. By incooperating a business model driven and led by youth cooperatives we are empowering the youth to build their entreprenuership skills and earn an extra income. Unlike normal Groups, a cooperative in Tanzania has the ability to reach at the grass root level.


DeFEA is a social enterprise which is Tanzanian based and owned, comprising of Victor Harvey and Sandra Grindgärds. The team's education background consists of Social Science focusing on Youth & Gender and Business Finance focusing on Strategic Planning.


  • Tanzania


  • Yes, for more than one year.


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

Tanzania is one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa and spends a higher than average percentage of its GDP on education. This rise and expenditure on education, unfortunately, has not corresponded to the rapid creation of new jobs and an abundance of well-educated young people to fill them.

According to latest statistics, Tanzania has the 10th largest youth population in the world. There are 22 million people under 25 living in Tanzania, 47% of them are under 15. Tanzania’s child bulge will transform into youth bulge in the coming years. This is due to excellent work in recent years to increase welfare and decrease child mortality.

The unintended consequence is that every year 900,000 young Tanzanians, between the ages of 15 – 35, entering a job market  that is only generating 50,000 to 60,000 new jobs. This is further compounded by the fact 75% of Tanzania’s population is rural/agriculturally based while Agriculture only contributes to a third of Tanzania’s GDP. This gap between rural and urban is of key relevance. In the Integrated Labour Force Survey of 2014 it showed that national youth unemployment was 11.7%. The unemployment rate for Dar es Salaam, the main city, was 28.8% while rural areas was 8.2%.

We at DeFEA, using our experience in agriculture, strategic and business planning and social science, have come up with an idea which uses the latest technology and utilising the current global economy to provide entrepreneurship opportunities to the youth of Tanzania.

Using Aquaponics, we will grow Moringa, a high value medicinal and nutritional plant, for the export market, where its high revenue stream will subsidise the sale of fish, Tilapia, at an affordable price for rural and peri-urban households in Tanzania. White-protein (both fish and chicken) has been found to be vital food source for rural households. The subsidised fish will be sold through youth led cooperatives.

The low price of the fish will act as an incentive for the coming together of youth-led cooperative to generate an income. With proper structure in place and training given these youth cooperatives can act as a Market Chanel for small scale farmers. This will link the rural small scale farmer with the high value urban market. This will link the efforts of the rural youth with the entrepreneurship capabilities of the urban unemployed youth.

Data from the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey was analysed to understand the association and difference in fish and meat consumption based on geography, household wealth, and degree of food insecurity. Rural households within the poorest wealth quintile consumed fish on average almost three times more frequently than meat during the week before the survey. Rural households that experienced food insecurity in the previous year were more dependent on fish than meat. These findings suggest that poorer and more food insecure depend more strongly on fish as a protein source. This food source is at risk due to climate change and overfishing.

Our customer in Tanzania consumes 7 kg of fish annually which contributes to 20% of their protein intake. Inland fishing accounts to 85% of production making the effects of climate change on lakes a great threat. The three species consumed the most are Perch, Tilapia and Sardine. The production of Tilapia will have no effect on consumption pattern as it already is a widely consumed fish species in Tanzania at 19,123.85 tons per year. It has a retail price of $1.8 - $2.7 per kg. Data is from the Ministry Of Tanzania and Food Tech Africa.

The global market for Moringa products is estimated at over US$4 billion a year. Moringa leaf powder is used as a dietary supplement and wholesale prices for Moringa leaf powder range from US$ 5 - 12 per kg. (CJP, 2013). 80% of organic Moringa leaf powder is thrown away due to poor SPS measures by farmers. (Q&A with potential buyers.)

Our idea evolves around a youth cooperative. To get it right in the beginning we have identified a number of ways to recruit early adopters into the cooperative. The Government of Tanzania Vocational Education Training Authority (VETA) has been contacted to help us identify youth with leadership qualities who can be taken on board.

We have been in contact with a number of local NGOs to discuss other aspects of the idea. Farm Africa, showed interest in and would partner subject to passing their strict due diligence process.

The initiative will take place in 3 phases:-

Phase I: Build an Aquaponics facility to produce Moringa and Tilapia.

Phase II: Form a youth-led cooperative to promote entrepreneurship

Phase III: Work with youth in cooperative to sell fish and promote the acquisition of other Principals to use the youth coorperative as a Market Chanel.

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Attachments (3)


User Experience Page 3. The youth, through ownership of his own venture, can grow and build his business and add other commodities to it. With a group of youth, in a cooperative, they can be the link between the small scale farmer in rural Tanzania and the lucrative urban market.

PG 3.pdf

User Experience Page 2. Once receiving the fish the youth can go and sell it at market rates and earn an income and gain practical entrepreneurship skills.

PG 2.pdf

User Experience Page 1. With the growing Youth bulge in Tanzania a lot of youth a left ideal in urban areas. We elevate the problem by offering subsidised fish which they can go and sell at market value.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Robert

This is a good idea, I would like some more details please:

1) What is the market potential for the fish, the dynamics of this market, and the  scale ability (and/or applicability) of this method assuming it is a success?

2) On diet, much of rural Tanzania is away from the coast and so fish may not part of their regular diet, chicken is more likely to be the white protein of choice - is this a challenge? How will you meet this issue?

3) I understand the location is 'Tanzania'. Can you be more specific as to where this implemented, and why? What are the considerations you are making for the location of your plant? Will you be targeting the urban lower-income demographic as well?

4) Will you monitor the impact on the surrounding rural community, or will you be more focused on the business elements of this project?

Photo of Victor

HI Robert, thank you for you questions and warm remarks. Allow me to answer your questions one by one:

1) The domestic fish market in 2015 in Tanzania produced 362,645.30 metric tons and valued at $780,000,000. Fish production in 2015 in Tanzania was 362,645.30 metric tons and valued at $780,000,000. Down slightly from 2013 production of 375,160 metric tons, imports have been increasing linearly since 2013 to cope with 3% population growth and effects of climate change and overfishing. With a 3% population increase from 2013 there needs to be a 51,216 and 108,521tons of excess fish production by 2018 and 2023 respectively to maintain the current annual consumption of 7kg per capita.

93% of warming temperatures are absorbed by the worlds water bodies. A recent scientific study published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" shows that rising temperatures have been responsible for significant declines in the fish being caught in Lake Tanganyika. The effects are further amplified by overfishing which threatening the already fragile eco system in the lakes. Overfishing, which has led the Food and Agriculture Organization to find that the average Nile perch caught has dropped from 50kg in the 1980s to less than 10kg today in Lake Victoria.

2)Data from the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey was analysed to understand the association and difference in fish and meat consumption based on geography, household wealth, and degree of food insecurity. Rural households within the poorest wealth quintile consumed fish on average almost three times more frequently than meat during the week before the survey. Rural households that experienced food insecurity in the previous year were more dependent on fish than meat. These findings suggest that poorer and more food insecure depend more strongly on fish as a protein source. This is due to the number of water bodies around Tanzania. A long cost and 3 big lakes makes Fish a go to protein source. Chicken is the next protein choice in Tanzania but keeping Chicken has a lot of challenges in Tanzania. The dominant challenge is that Tanzania does not have a reliable Cold Supply Chain. This is need to store vaccines and other medicines, in cold temperatures, which are needed in livestock keeping. At the moment due to this factor chicken is a substitute is not a challenge. There is a gab which our youth can fill and earn income and necessary entrepreneurial skills.

3) We are targeting to be based in Bagamoyo which is 60km from the main city of Dar es Salaam. The reason for this choice is the cost of land and access to the youth of Dar es Salaam where Youth unemployment is 28%.

Land is very expensive in Dar es Salaam and we have had to move outside it find a big enough area for a large Aquaponics system at a reasonable price. Moringa leaf powder after processing can be stored in dry vacuum sealed bags and has a shelf life of 6 month. It is then exported through the Dar es Salaam International Airport. Fish, for the Youth to get the best possible price, needs to be fresh. These two factors helped us decided to stay as close as possible to Dar es Salaam.

Targeting and selling will be the focus of the Youth led cooperative. We are looking at what training we can give but the act of customer profiling and selling are the necessary activities needed to be undertaken by the Youth in order for them to gain entrepreneurial skills.

4) The impact of the surrounding Rural Community where our plant will be located is something we are looking to incorporate. As I write Sandra is talking to village elders to see if they will be willing for Moringa to supplied to their children.

UNICEF found that in Tanzania stunting currently affects 42 per cent of under five children, and is only a two percentage points lower than it was five years ago. The burden of stunting in Tanzania ranks third in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moringa is a super food an gram for gram beats Spinach for Iron and Calcium in Milk. There is a great advantage to the children in advocating for its use in Tanzania.

Please do let me know if I have answered you questions fully. I look forward to all forms of commenting. If you have suggestions on how to improve the idea I am also open.

Photo of Gary Tong

Hello Victor and Sandra. A very interesting concept and worthwhile cause, 'the youth of Tanzania'. I have a couple of questions;  How do you define 'youth'?  Do you envisage those showing managerial aptitude taking the project to the next level? Would there be a mechanism in place to ensure that it remained youth focused? The second point regards the fish farming itself. simply put, where do the fish come from? Do you buy 'fry' or eggs and are they matured in the ponds? Would you have your own nursery ponds where you harvest eggs from mature fish?
Success with the project.

Photo of Victor

Hi Gary, Thank you for your comments and question!

The word "Youth" is generally termed to define someone ebtween 15 - 35 years of age. This is really a broad definition and we will narrow it further by specifying 22 -35 years of age. We are really targetting the youth who have left tertiary education, whether vocational or University, and are looking for a Job. Searching for a job while fresh out of school is a stressfully activity in any country but especially in Tanzania where there is only around 60,000 new jobs created every year.

We will target the youth who show entreprenueral spirit & skills and have leadership qualities. This is a very delicate process and needs to be correct form the start as these ealier adapters will in a way set the tone for the rest of the cooperative. We are talking to a local NGO and the Tanzania Vocational Education Training Authority to find the targeted Group.

We are in dialogue with the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to source Tilapia Eggs. They are accessible in Tanzania. Upon our research of Tilapia we found that tilapia grow well in a pH of 6 and live well with the Nitrifying Bacteria in a range between 7 - 8. It would be advisable to have nusery ponds until they reach ideal weight and then trasnfer them to the aquaponics system. 

A fish and plant nursery will be ideal for maximum output inorder to get a better rate of return on investment and also to provide the youth in our cooperative good standard fish. 

Photo of Simran Bindra

Great idea. I like the method of diversifying the risk of a 'new' export crop like Moringa with a much more stable domestic product (fish). Interested to see if there are other crops that you think could work with the system if Moringa proves to be too volatile. 

Photo of Victor

HI Simran, thank you for the warm remarks!

Your question is something I and the Team at DeFea have been looking at. Morings is indeed a "new" plant in the export market. It's demand is slowly increasing which is encouraging. The 2014 organic report valued it at $4 billion. Saying this, Aquaponics is an organic hydroponic method. This makes our target market the organic market. Latest statistics put the US organic market at $24 billion and Europe somewhere around $22 billion. Giving opportunities to grow a variety of other organic high value medicinal plants like Saffron, Vanilla, Aloe Vera or even Basil. These are "old" plants in the export market and their market price is high but stable. This gives us plenty of opportunity to shift with the organic market demands.

The most important thing in an Aquaponics system is the balance in the system. The pH level is of crucial importance. A fish like Tilapi, which has a high value in Tanzania, is resilient to a wide pH range. making the fish very ideal to grow with a wide range of plants.

Photo of Ben Kasdan

Hi Victor and Sandra,
 Nice idea but I am curious in how you will go about targeting the youth portion of this project? Will you find them in school? Or will they already be working?

Photo of Victor

Hi Ben, thank you for your praise!

The youth unemployment rate, according to the Labour Survey of 2014, is 11.7%. There are 900,000 youths yearly coming on to the job market which produces around 60,000 jobs per year. So there is a large number of educated youth without a regular income.

There are local NGOs and the government Vocational Education Training Agency who are trying to equip these youth with soft skills so they can become entreprenueral. Our idea is to target these youth to be our early adopters. They can generate an income from selling the subsidised fish while at the same time giving the the opportunity to source produce for sale on an international market. Giving them practical entreprenueral skills while earning an income. We are in negotiations with a local NGO to identify the youth who we can recruit to take onboard in the beginning. We have also contacted the government Vocational Education Training Agency (VETA) and are waiting for a reply. As you can imagine there is a lot of interest especially with the incentive of subsidised fish. Inorder to become sustainable we need to get this part right in the very beginning.

As the cooperative grows and is earning an income it will regulate itself. We are relying on peer pressure of not wanting to jeopradise their own income to self select who joins and adds to the cooperative.

Photo of Siddharth Kamalia

Hi Victor, great initiative shown. Could you explain more on how you'll go about forming the cooperatives for youth ? Will they be playing the role of a supplier base for you , where you shall provide them with a reliable buyer or will they have equity over project's in their area of operation (where you set up the farms) ?

Photo of Victor

Hi Siddharth, thank you for your comment! Did you know your name derives from Buddha himself??

We are currently in negotiations with a local NGO who deal with Youth training and development to help us find the early adaptors. There is a lot of interest due to the subsidised fish incentive so we need to get it right from the beginning with careful recruitment process and selection.

We believe in empowering the youth and giving them ownership of what they are doing. We are providing subsidised fish as an incentive to form the cooperative and, initially, management of the cooperative. With an establish cooperative earning a small income from selling the fish at market value we will offer the ability to use our export channel for goods they source from small scale farmers. Thus gauranteeing them a buyer. This can be done for a number of goods produced in Tanzania and have a high value in developed countries. A good example is honey, with the falling of the number of bees in the developed world (US, Sweden) the value of honey in the international market is increasing year on year.  The cooperative, who are the youth, can source the honey and we can link them with honey buyers. I am in touch with an international honey buyer as we speak who is always looking for the right standard of honey in Tanzania.

We can teach the youth how to set up Aquapnics plants but the biggest constraint is financial resources and technical know how. We have thought of also giving aquaponics kits to youth so they can grow their own fish but we are concentrating on setting up the main plant and cooperative and adding on other ideas which wont take much to incorporate. A simple idea is using the nursery of the aquaponics when all the plants a growing in the farm. When all the plants, 100,000, are growing the nursery will not be used at a full capacity. We could grow, at no extra cost, the plant Allan Blackia. Allan Blackia is plant which has a high value non-timber produce, its fruits. The fruits produce an oil which is used in margarine and chocolate production. These plants can be given to the youth to grow in their homes to fight the effects of deforestation which in Tanzania stands at 412,000 ha per annum.

There are many ideas but at the moment we want to concentrate on building the plant and setting up the cooperative. Where we will export Moringa which will help us sell subsidised fish to a youth cooperative. This will incetivise them to stay together and form a sourcing group where we will connect them with international buyers from our export channel. 

Photo of Derek Neil Phillips

Hi Victor, great idea. Have you given any consideration as to what size the fish farm needs to be to be economically viable as it will have to stand on its own economically until the Moringa production starts which I assume will be one or two years later to allow the trees to grow. Also do you have an idea in which part of Tanzania would be best suited for your idea as climate and land ownership issues and price vary greatly throughout the country.

Photo of Victor

Hi Derek, thank you for your comment! During our research we found different sizes of aquaponics plants based on level of plants grown and fish harvested. Moringa leaf powder, can be produced after 4 months, and is grown and produced the same way as tea leaves.  An aquaponics plant with a valuation of $100,000 growing 120,000 plants and 3,500kg of fish produces 3.33 tones of Moringa leaf powder valued at $26,000 per annum and subsidised fish of $7,000 with a market value of $10,000. Revenue after the first 6 months is $33,000 per annum.

Aquaponics, as a water recirculating technology retains 90% of its water. The 10% lost by evaporation can be easily replaced by rainwater harvesting. With the addition of solar panels to make it energy self-sufficient the only annual costs are seeds, fish feed (which can be reduced by using moringa itself) and labour to monitor the system. To avoid other costs management is not drawing a salary for the first 2 years to give the project the ability to become sustainable. This low cost give us the possibility of generating a sustainable profit. Which we can use to subsidise more fish to incentives the youth cooperative or expand in order to subsidise more fish. I am working on the exact financial breakdown and will update it soon.

Aquaponics can be used indoors or inside greenhouses and is a soilless technology. This has the advantage of shielding us from the climate and all soil based diseases that affect crops. Ideally, we would like to be based near the main city of Tanzania called Dar es salaam so we can have access to the local urban market. It also puts us in direct contact with the urban youth, who's unemployment rate is still above 20%. We have chosen the town of Bagamoyo which is 60km from Dar es Salaam. We have access to land which we are contributing to the company as a capital contribution. This will help us stay clear of land ownership issues and avoid using grant money in the purchase of land which has reached very high prices at the moment.

As we have the export market of Moringa we can encourage the youth to source produce from small scale farmers and use our export channel to get higher returns.