A model for low water Aquaponic farming in Africa, that lifts smallholders out of subsistence.

Clearwater Aquaponic farms use African materials and skills, and a smallholder business model with market linkages, training and finance.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Clearwater Farms Ltd

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $100k - $250k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water

Headquarters location: Country

  • Zambia

Headquarters location: City


Location(s) of impact

Zambia : Lusaka Zambia : Rural areas



Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Zambia, in common with many African countries, has a growing local demand for fresh vegetables and protein year around, from an increasing urban middle class. Smallholder farmers cannot meet this demand consistently; rain and ground water resources are no longer dependable due to climate change and overuse. Production is highly seasonal. This leaves the country dependent on imported food from South Africa and even China, depriving rural smallholders from access to a lucrative local market.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Our innovation has been to bring high yield, low water, all year around food production within the reach of poor rural farmers. The same farmers had been unable to grow quality crops consistently and were excluded from local premium markets. First, we designed an Aquaponic farm for the Zambian setting, using readily available local materials and skills. Our business model then was to share the design with smallholders, putting production capacity directly into their hands. We provide training, technical and business support, and access to some finance. We also provide market linkages, branding and offtake the produce from the outgrowers. Clearwater’s costs are recovered from a revenue share. Both the smallholder and Clearwater are invested, and each is rewarded from maximised yields and quality. Food is produced locally, year around and so is competitive with imports. The smallest rural farmers are encouraged to form cooperatives, to meet our outgrower entry level criteria.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

The first Aquaponic (AP) farms have been built in Zambia, each with an annual production capacity of 40,000 heads of vegetables and 5T of fish. Smallholders have already started as Clearwater outgrowers. Each farm creates work for 5 people and an income of $1,000 per month to a smallholder, lifting them out of subsistence, able to cover costs for children’s schooling and health care for example. In landlocked Zambia over 45,000T of fish, often poor quality, were imported from China last year. Out of season vegetables are regularly transported 2000kms by truck from South Africa. This AP initiative brings food production closer to the local market, improving food quality, reducing transportation energy and CO2. Each AP farm uses half the water compared to current best practice drip irrigation, and only 10% of the most common flood irrigation. In Africa, agriculture uses 70% of available fresh water. A single AP farm saves 350,000L of water a year, reducing ground water depletion.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

In addition to its outgrower Aquaponics (AP) business, Clearwater also operates a successful poultry operation and field agriculture. These provide useful market linkages that benefit AP, and revenue to support business overheads. Funding for the AP design and the outgrower expansion model has come from: business angle loans 30%; self-funding 30%; grant funding 30%; profit 10%. The award would be used to help co-finance further AP outgrowers, to deliver to more of the total addressable market for premium horticulture in Zambia - worth $80m. As the outgrowers increase, Clearwater will generate more income through smallholder revenue share. This will be reinvested to support further outgrowers, and after enough smallholders have been engaged the model will become largely self-funding.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

AP farms provide low water, high yield agriculture and operate in many developed countries. Some have tried to bring AP to developing countries too, either imported - expensive to own and operate; or small/hobbyist for subsistence and education. Clearwater designed AP for local materials and skills and a business model with market linkages, training and finance. This delivers income for smallholders, lifting them out of poverty; reduces food transportation and uses less water than field crops.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Living and working in Zambia I’ve seen that although NGO’s do great work to help the neediest in developing countries, they frequently create a level of dependency too amongst their clients. In an unhealthy cycle some NGO’s become equally dependent on the disadvantaged for further funding rounds. The needs in Zambia are huge, ranked as it is at 139 on the human development index. However, the potential is also vast with a young population, safe political climate, and land to develop. With all these benefits it seemed absurd that local smallholders couldn’t compete with food that is grown overseas and transported thousands of kms by truck or ship. What Zambian farmers needed was help and support with a proven technology and business model. Our outgrowers use business to lift themselves out of basic subsistence, and dependency. They create value within Zambia, and a sustainable income.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others


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