Mahanain, Haiti Aquaponics Part 1

Today implementation started in Mahanaim. Luiguy Massanga has worked incredibly hard developing the village in Mahanaim and the aquaponics garden has been a vision since the beginning in 2010. Students from Johnson C. Smith Univeristy, Doctor Philip O, Luiguy Massanga, 100 Gardens and community members in Mahanaim are all working together to implement the aquaponics garden. The construction of the system is made possible by the Duke Endowment, and my trip was made possible by Joseph’s Exchange

This demonstration unit is intended to produce high quality food as well as demonstrate the benefits of aquaponics and to provide hands on learning for various subjects such as science, math, engineering and technology. The system itself will be built using concrete. The fish tank and storage room will be underneath a steel covering which will have a solar array secured to the top. The storage batteries, feed and other supplies will be housed in the storage room.

The aquaponics system will operate as a flood and drain unit. There is a 3500 liter fish tank and (3) 3.5m x 1m x 0.3m growing beds. The growing beds function as the biological filters and the plant growing sites. One of the main challenges will be finding out if the gravel here is suitable for aquaponics. Most of the gravel in Mahanaim is limestone. Limestone should not be used as the growing substrate because as the calcium carbonate is flooded with the fish tank effluent, the calcium will dissolve when nitrifying bacteria release acid. This will raise the pH to an uncontrollable level and make system operation difficult, if not impossible.

Rendering of the aquaponics training site

Rendering of the aquaponics training site

Today we made great progress with the implementation of the aquaponics garden. Along with a Haitian engineer, Luiguy and community volunteers, we completed the floor layout for all system components. With just some basic instruction from myself and Luiguy, the engineer and the community member went to work. They cut limbs from trees and sharpened the edges to make stakes and pounded them into the ground with large rocks. They proceeded to draw string between the stakes to define the areas where the system components will be installed. Using only a square and a measuring tape they plotted out the entire system, storage building and covering structure with amazing accuracy. It was quite an experience to see A vision I have sketched on Google Sketchup coming to life by a community of hard working people in another country, most of which I cannot even communicate with because I cannot speak creole or French. There seems to be a consensus between everyone involved that this is an important project for the community and everyone showed up to help and everyone was smiling, it was a beautiful site and I am incredibly honored to be a part of it.

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Luiguy Massanga, Dr. O and community member discussing the site plan

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Site is now ready to begin work

Now that the site is laid out we can begin construction!

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