Sustainable Aquaponics for Urban Agricultural and Environmental Development in Sub-Saharan Africa
Sustainable aquaponics as an urban farming tool for food security, environmental conservation and urban development in sub-Saharan Africa.
I am 18 years old or older.
Initiative's representative name
Emmanuel Olatunbosun Benjamin, PhD
Initiative's representative date of birth
25th November 1977
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Website or social media url(s)
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
Novel forms of urban farming practices have been gaining momentum within the debate about the development of urban agriculture and environment conservation. However, these initiatives have been mainly concentrated in cities of the Global North, whereas the fast-paced growing cities of the Global South could harness the maximum potential of these practices e.g. aquaponics to solve the challenges of urban food insecurity, degraded urban environment/landscape, urban unemployment, etc. This kind of urban farming would have great potential in Lagos, Nigeria because the city is Africa’s biggest city and is set to be World’s biggest city by the end of the century; this is where the investment in new forms of urban food production is mostly need.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Food insecurity: it is difficult for residents of Lagos (especially the poorest of the poor) to access fresh food and this is very likely to deteriorate due to the growth in population and impact of the climate crisis. Climate change adaption: developing a practice for urban farming, in a controlled environment, that protects itself from sea level rise and unsustainable water management in one of the (mega) cities in the world will reduce the cost of fresh food and environmental degradation.
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
A pragmatic approach to tackling food insecurity as well as environmental degradation in fast urbanizing areas such as Lagos, Nigeria is a (sustainable) aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a form of “soilless” agricultural system that combines fish rearing and vegetable production. The system uses fish wastewater to fertilize and provide nutrients to vegetables during which the wastewater is recycled for re-use by the fishes. This promising innovation can address the fish and vegetable shortage as well as pollution experienced in Lagos. The sustainability pillar of the aquaponics system relates to the use of off-grid solar or photovoltaic energy to address erratic power supply often observed in urban cities and the ability to reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from alternative energy production. Furthermore, aquaponics promotes the recycling of plastic waste bottles use as grow pots that otherwise would be indiscriminately disposed becoming a menace in urban areas. Sustainable aquaponics does not compete for resources such as land as it requires limited space, which makes it ideal for urban areas with prospects of scaling-up.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
While aquaponics as a technology is currently being researched in developed countries, relatively little is done in Western Africa. The non-governmental organization (NGO), Aglode Development Center, involving multiple stakeholders in the assessment of the feasibility of developing an aquaponics system in Lagos, which lays the foundations for further developments/stages of the project. This resulted in a system design that is simple and energy independent compared to existing models available in other regions. Thus, the NGO installed a micro-scale single loop aquaponics system running on a mix of off-grid solar and grid energy in Lagos. This has resulted in baseline data on the viability and performance of aquaponics in Lagos, Nigeria.
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
The current phase of the micro-scale project is stakeholder engagement. This involves getting perspectives from vegetable farmers, aquaculturalist, local policy makers and the private sector on the opportunities and barriers to adoption and/or investment in urban climate smart agriculture such as aquaponics. The private sectors participants would be predominantly financial institution (microfinance and commercial banks) that financed urban agricultural investments. The concept is to bring these entities together to concentrate efforts on aquaponics as a novel form of urban farming. This is will be done by inviting all this stakeholders to the project site for a visitation were issues related to the prospects of scaling-up would be discussed. The rationale behind this is to develop a novel forms of urban farming that has the potential to reduce the pressure on hotspots of biodiversity as well as forests, by not supporting the need for clearance of these areas for new agricultural land.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
The project has sought to include young motivated people in the promotion and implementation of the initiative, with a special focused on capacity building, training and knowledge transfer. A full-time technical assistant was hired in October 2019, on a temporary basis, for a period of a year. There were (three) youths from within and outside the community invited on-site to evaluate aquaponics as a modern climate smart agriculture (CSA) option. These youths engage in either vegetable cultivation or aquaculture activities in their respective locations. The first partial harvest of vegetable of ca. 500g from the aquaponics system after three months was distributed to members of the Shasha community in Lagos to ascertain its dietary cover for an average family in Lagos. Regarding the measurement of progress, a predetermined monitoring and evaluation techniques such as performance indicators, participatory methods and cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis will be used.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
The growth strategy that will be pursued by organization will include open source information sharing, training of urban dwellers and geographical spread of aquaponics across Lagos, Nigeria. The next stage of the project is to design a small-medium scale sustainable aquaponics prototype as a community product. It is expected that during the planning of such project the active involvement of local authorities would be vital such that that once such system is operational, it can be showcase as community-led project. This would ascertain that the geographical spread of aquaponics in urban area of Lagos, which otherwise would be an isolated case, is guaranteed. The long term plan is to have aquaponics clusters in the city.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
The implementing organization being a non-governmental organization (NGO) implies it has a strong social impact focus. Part of the socioeconomic benefits to the host community is the training of youths. This initiative would like to tackle the (chronic) youth unemployment in Lagos through its scale-up strategy, as well as exploring opportunities to expand aquaponics system with the right public/private support. The planned scaling of the sustainable aquaponics system will generate revenue, which would not only be re-invested into advancing aquaponics awareness and research but community projects esp. in the area of education. This would entail donation of micro-scale aquaponics systems.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
The management of the organization, social investors as well as a research foundation in Germany made the seed funding for the micro-scale aquaponics project possible. While the purpose of the micro-scale aquaponics project is to test the performance and variability of a varieties of (stable) vegetables and 2 species in Lagos for baseline data collection, the long term goal is to design a profitable small-medium scale aquaponics system. The funding for the next phase of the project is expected to be from third party application. The project in the medium and long term is expected to sustain itself through the sales of its harvested product and the diversification to commodity processing and trading in urban centers.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
The team is made of two trustees, two directors, one full-time technical assistant as well as a part-time administrator and researcher. The trustees are Mr. Dare Balogun, an urban town planner and Mrs. Temilade Adewunmi a financial services practitioner. The directors are Dr. Emmanuel O. Benjamin and Mr. Oreoluwa Ola both agric. economists. Mr. Sulaimon Babalola is the technical assistant and hold a HND while Mrs. Ifeoluwa Ola, a PhD student in Nigeria, is the administrator and researcher.
11. How did you hear about this challenge?
Vittel page or contact