Background

    • Value proposition – Building “community capital” in leveraging Climate Smart Aquaponics
      • The last few decades it has been commonly recognised that the Earth’s resources are finite and call for implementation strategies which ensure the maintenance of these resources for future generations, the so called sustainable development of natural resources. Today, there are more than 7 billion people on the planet, a figure that is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. If these numbers hold, humankind is going to face enormous ecological and social challenges. For, example, the agricultural sector will have to increase food production by 70% in a relatively short period of time to meet demand to feed the world’s population.

        In view of these challenges, several new natural resource management paradigms are being propounded to achieve the goal of sustainable development, such as sustainable farming and water management, smart water management, integrated watershed management, climate-smart agriculture, smart-water agriculture. All of these recognise the importance of the human dimension and the need to integrate technological tools with broad-ranging social, political and economic change. For all these approaches to succeed, stakeholders must be willing to engage not only in the implementation of new technologies but also in overcoming the (unintended) social and environmental consequences with a community-based approach, including future-oriented management strategies. Experts and institutions must be willing to adopt the practice of “thinking out of the box” and “inclusive thinking”, learning skills outside their area of expertise, and to change traditional modes of operation.

    • Climate change – Impact on South African agriculture and food systems
      • Climate change presents a high risk to food security in sub-Saharan countries from crop production to food distribution and consumption. Particularly global warming has a severe impact on agricultural land and water availability which ultimately affects food security through food availability (production), accessibility (distribution), utilisation (nutrition) and affordability (cost), especially in rural and urban poor areas.

        South Africa, as so many other African countries, is extremely vulnerable to these impacts, expecting agricultural productivity in the sub-Saharan countries to decline from 21% to 9% by 2080. Knowing that the global population is continuing to rise and that the crop and food production are increasing at a rate below that of global populations, the World Food Programme expects that food production will not be able to meet global demand. This would leave millions of people and numerous countries facing the plain reality of having reduced food security. To mitigate these risks, there is a need for an integrated approach whereby all stakeholders embrace the new natural resource management paradigms.

        Improving nutrition in Africa not only requires increased productivity but also the production of healthy food and essential nutrients (WHO). In South Africa, communities in rural and urban poor areas have limited access to resources. Their diet is based on the basic ingredients that are available in the local stores such as highly processed foods that are rich in calories, sugars, fat, salts and additives, but low in essential nutrients. Therefore they lack a nutritional well-balanced diet, leading to under-nutrition and obesity-related disease.

    • Gender and climate change – Women making the difference
      • In most parts of the world, women play a major role in agricultural production, a critical component of food security, playing a pivotal role in the three main components of food security, i.e. availability, access and utilization. Women also play a role in a wide range of other activities that support agricultural development, such as soil and water conservation. Although men also play a crucial role in food production, they are more likely to have access to essential resources compared to women who, in many cases, have diminished assets and resources to help them plan for and potentially avert the next crisis. Diverse gender-based barriers (including restrictive sociocultural inhibitions) in accessing land, financial services, social capital, credit and technology render women vulnerable to food insecurity.

        Despite significant strides in addressing gender inequalities over the years, rural women are still among the most marginalized groups in society and are particularly vulnerable to current and future climate change and food insecurity. However, it is well documented that there is a strong correlation between women’s empowerment and agricultural productivity. Gender equality at the household and community levels leads to superior agricultural and development outcomes, including increases in farm productivity and improvements in family nutrition.

        Therefore, the agency of rural female farmers is essential for enhancing agricultural productivity and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including ensuring food security (SDG 2) and addressing the perils of climate change (SDG 13). Given these close relationships, the response to climate change vis-à-vis the agricultural sector should therefore take into account gender dynamics and be gender-responsive.

    • ICT - Enabling Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)
      • As information and communication technologies developed, ICT became an important driver for growth, both as a sector, but also as an enabler of other sectors. For example, ICT is now generally recognised as a strategic enabler in the process of developing innovative solutions to address the problems of food and water scarcities as well as well as facilitating the collection and analysis of environmental data to enable building more accurate models, in domains such as weather forecasting and integrated crop and soil management, as reliance on past data is no longer sufficient in the looming era of climate change.

        ICT provides a unique opportunity for food and water stakeholders to obtain information in near real-time about a number of physical and environmental variables, such as temperature, soil moisture levels, and rainfall, through web enabled sensors and communication networks. Smart metering technologies can also provide agricultural stakeholders, individuals as well as organisations, with information about their own management practices, offering a real potential for a more productive and sustainable production, based on a more precise and resource-efficient approach.

        ICT Smart Agriculture - Making agricultural management more intelligent. The integration of digital technologies with agricultural knowledge and experience has given rise to different so-called smart agricultural concepts, e.g. digital agriculture, connected agriculture, smart farming, precision agriculture, smart water agriculture, and intelligent water, all using diverse smart technologies in a cohesive system of getting the data, managing the data and using the data, such as: automation and robotics, data acquisition and integration techniques, data storage, processing and analysis, data modelling, management and control, visualisation and supporting decision making.

        ICT Smart Agriculture – Enabling Agricultural Innovation Systems for Smallholders. Smart Farming applications do not target only large, conventional farming exploitations, but could also be new levers to boost other common or growing trends in agricultural exploitations, such as family farming, and organic farming.

        Impact - The potential of ICT to support the access to and exchange of information for smallholder farmers is well documented. ICT clearly facilitates knowledge generation, documentation, and sharing in support of farmers and of farmer innovations. Through improved communication farmer’s networks are enhanced and/or expanded, creating a so-called “LinkedIn for local food and farmers”. In regard to technology, the so-called “Connected Agriculture” concept mentions that the greatest increase to farmers’ incomes will come from mobile: mobile payment systems, mobile information services, and helpline services.

        Technology - Currently, agricultural innovation for smallholders is predominantly driven by mobile technology using SMS in combination with community radio, and video. The mobile phone and new processes using video are mentioned as the most popular modern ICT for farmer-to-farmer communication and innovation sharing, noting that video normally requires the involvement of an intermediary. In addition, video has shown positive impact on agricultural training and productivity amongst smallholders, especially when combined with participatory, community-based processes. While SMS-based systems seem to predominate at this time, there is hope that technology and infrastructure will progress beyond short texts to allow use of more complex information, including images.

        Challenges – Challenges that prevent the maximum benefit of ICT innovations being realized challenges are: technology, human capacity, and content. In remote rural areas these come in addition to the more general challenges, such as coverage, electricity, literacy, etc.

        • Technology - Actually, technology by itself is not a real concern, but a tool that evolves over time based on market forces and public policies. Technology is only a frustration when expectations and demands exceed its ability to deliver services. However, Internet and/or cellular coverage in the most remote, low population areas remains a major cause of concern. In other instances, where there is coverage, the cost of these services remains a barrier regardless of the innovations available.
        • Capacity - ICT may make tools and information available, but farmers must know they exist and be able to use them. The capacity of individuals to use what ICT are available is often overlooked, or taken for granted, leaving older people and women in some communities at a particular disadvantage. One solution suggested to address limited individual capacity is the use of intermediaries.
        • Content - Content, in many instances does not exist in forms usable with modern ICT. Ultimately, if ICT smart farming has to create intelligence based on fact- or evidence based information gathering, managing, and use (e.g. providing real decision tools), it will be necessary to build an “ecosystem” of relevant information and data. This sort of information is under development in some examples, but in many cases there is lack of clarity regarding who should be responsible for the creation or mobilization, quality assurance and dissemination. Information should be developed “community-based”, e.g. according to need of the end users (e.g. farmers), and provided in local languages, in simple, interactive form. It must be up-to-date, relevant and supplied in a timely manner.

    • Agriculture extension – Managing knowledge dissemination through framer education
      • Universally, agricultural extension role in agricultural sector is educational. Traditional extension systems focus on increasing agricultural productivity. However, as a result of climate change models of agricultural extension have evolved into more client-oriented or demand-led approaches, including public information and awareness creation, education programs that could assist farmers in mitigating the effects of climate change, but in an expanded concept also (non-farm) rural microenterprise development, technical and marketing extension.

        Agricultural extension is a key element in initiating change and introducing innovative technology such as climate smart agriculture. This is because these require change in knowledge, attitudes, resilience capabilities and skills of people and a wide participation of all stakeholders. It has been proven that farmers who have had access to extension contact adopted farming technologies 72% greater than farmers who had no access to extension contact. Agricultural extension also enhances the efficiency of making adoption decisions.

    • Aquaponics, the co-raising of fish and plants in water in a symbiotic, is an ancient technique dating back to the Aztecs and ancient China. This eco-friendly system provides protein and vegetables, along with food security, for diverse populations worldwide. Today, growth in aquaponics is taking off worldwide, providing new opportunities for economical, healthy food sources to both those in need and those seeking to provide higher quality food options.

      It is generally assumed that the real long-term impact of aquaponics might well be in large-scale, sustainable urban agriculture providing food security to escalating city populations worldwide. However, until the necessary supporting infrastructure, education and social acceptance catches up to the economics of scale the short-term future is in compact systems for individuals, families, businesses and small communities.

    • Modular aquaponics – An inclusive model for a smart and sustainable green economy
      • In developing countries, modular/urban aquaponics technology, as a small scale solution, can play a crucial role in food security and mitigating climate change, involving individuals, families, businesses and small communities. Entire communities can be designed around aquaponics farm systems, similar to developments in some major US cities. Additionally, in combining aquaponics with smart ICT applications not only can contribute significantly to the implementation of CSA, but it can eventually lead to become a relevant “bio-indicator” of climate change, through “in depth” data analytics.

        Community embedment – The integrated concept of this project proposal is an ideal tool at encouraging and facilitating local communities, smallholders and/or individuals to further strengthen their contribution to a sustainable and climate smart agriculture, by building “community capital” in mitigating many of the problems caused by climate change. It also aims at stimulating partners in research, government and civil society to join forces with business in developing a benchmark model for inclusive, smart and sustainable green economy.

        Two approaches of community embedment will be field-validated: 1. embedment leveraged through educational institutions; 2. embedment through integration in existing healthcare centers, the so-called ‘Community Living Centre.

        • Educational institutions - The embedment through educational institutions will be done in partnership with the South West Gauteng College (township of Soweto), primarily reaching out to students as young farmers and entrepreneurs in the making. It is hypothesised that by providing training in aquaponics production it can directly provide food to the student community. With time, the acquired knowledge and practical know-how will disseminate to the students’ families and finally, on the long-term, disseminate throughout the wider community. Health and nutrition will be established within the community, lessening the vulnerability of the local population.
        • Healthcare centres – The embedment through integration into CLCs will be done in collaboration with Rhizo-Babuyile in Hani Park (Matjhabeng Local Municipality, Free State).

          Accessibility of healthcare as well as utilization of available (peripheral) healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, continues to be poor in many developing countries. Remediation requires alternative rural health service approaches, innovative, sustainable, pragmatic and actionable, driven by “cooperative thinking” towards the provision of universal basic care i.e. “Good for most rather than best for few”.

          The Community Life Center aims to provide a sustainable improvement in health and wellbeing for the community through a holistic approach to strengthening primary and community care. It addresses the variety of interrelated challenges in primary healthcare provision (such as lack of basic medical equipment, lack of energy, lack of skills, etc.) through an integrated solution covering: robust infrastructure; access to energy; capability strengthening & continuous education; maintenance and service; awareness creation through community engagement; improved data management; good referral and support systems; locally relevant, accessible and user-friendly technology.

          The infrastructural elements of the CLC are flexible and can be built on a modular basis. The specific added value/innovation of the CLC is that it fosters an environment that creates and turns health centers into social and economic community hubs. A CLC platform creates a safe and attractive environment for the local community and triggers social and economic activities. One of those activities is producing and selling healthy, organic food. Their diet is based on highly processed foods, rich in calories, sugars, fat, salts and additives, but low in essential nutrients. With this micro-economic “nutritional” activity, we aim to supplement the diet of the local community.

    • The consortium – A unique combination of skills/areas of expertise
      • The partners in the consortium bring together a unique set of skills and expertise, i.e.:

        Belgium Campus ITversity - Project management, education and research for regional development, community embedment.

        Botlhale Village - ICT technology including software publishing, wireless telecommunication, computer programming activities, computer consultancy, data processing, hosting and related expertise, web portals.

        La Pieus Aqua – Aquaponics design & planning, engineering & construction, system conditioning, training course development, biome preparation, system commissioning, consultancy.

        Lumin8 – Electronic product hardware, firmware and software development and manufacturing, in-house manufacturing of electronics, cable harnessing, mechanics etc., strong local and global supplier relationships, experience in community embedment of innovative technology in rural Africa, extensive local and global network of partners, businesses, suppliers, engineering and manufacture experts.

        Philips South Africa – Expertise in proven community embedment of the CLC concept throughout Africa; specific technical know-how in setting set up CLC platforms, particularly in low-resource and fragile setting.

        Rhiza-Babuyile – Expertise in proven community embedment ofIn joining forces, they guarantee the best opportunity to successfully implement this project including:

        • Food security - Producing locally produced food, using a proven highly efficient fish and plant/fruit production system and requiring a minimum of water (saving >95% compared to conventional agriculture), energy (application of solar energy) and fertiliser and consequently supporting community climate adaptation in mitigating climate change impact.
        • Education and training – Improving and extending entrepreneurial skills development in the use of aquaponics technology; promoting adaptation options such as education, entrepreneurial training, sustainable aquaculture and aquaponics; improve awareness and training on malaria incidence and how these can be dealt with proactively and thus prevented, etc.
        • Community embedment - Field-validate different community embedment approaches of the proposed integrated aquaponics concept, e.g. educational institutions, healthcare centers and local municipalities, aiming a delivering a roadmap; investigate behaviour change and social cohesion in embracing aquaponics technology, which is critical to community-based adaptation at all levels of society; build/strengthen partnerships where research and learning are shared and where stakeholders have easy access to science and data, to help
        • Climate smart agriculture/adaptation - Developing smart ICT solutions to optimise aquaponics systems, allowing remote monitoring and data gathering, precision farming with the resource-efficient application of both water and fertiliser; understanding and demonstrate where effective ecosystem-based approaches are being used and are effective in urban and rural settlements; etc.
        • Job creation & entrepreneurship - Creating highly skilled job opportunities for both trained and educated staff directly linked to the operation of the system, as well as jobs with other partners selling the production; job in the field of smart application of ICT in agriculture.
        • Building intelligence – Develop an information-sharing system where stakeholders have easy access to recent science and data and to create intelligence based on fact- or evidence-based information gathering with the aims to provide supportive services to all stakeholders and protecting essential services from climate change.
        • Research – Based on the envisaged intelligence creation, evaluate the feasibility of modular aquaponics as potential “bio-indicator” for climate change, e.g. monitoring the impact of climate change on food production and healthy (nourished) communities; identification of vegetables that are best suited and adaptable to changing climate patterns and the impacts of heat stress, particularly at the local level, etc.

          A South African student, still to be selected, will be mentored by 2 professors; Prof Dr Jos De Brabanter (PhD) from KU Leuven University (http://www.kuleuven.be/wieiswie/nl/person/00033544) , and Prof Dr Kris Willems (PhD) from Belgium Campus (emeritus KU Leuven University).

Availability of healthy nutritious food

Focusing on the type of food sources and moving away from the typical starch and sugar based diets.

Community upliftment

Through allowing families to produce and consume food while earning an income from the sale of excess supply.

Old technologies made Smart

Aquaponics, an ancient technique dating back to the Aztecs and ancient China, is the co-raising of fish and plants in water.

ICT as an enabler

Optimising aquaponics systems with the use of remote monitoring and data gathering.

Change happens together

Our network ranges from government right through to SME’s aiming at improving the quality of life.

Gamification

Encouraging the use of the systems and data to competitively grow and produce for the communities.