A recently completed aquaponic system in Peru will create a sustainable source of fish and vegetables, providing quality nutrition to the local schools and community. The material and labor for the aquaponic system, which was funded as part of a project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were all sourced locally, bringing work and economic development to the community. Along with the nutritional and economic value of the aquaponic system, the initiative brings an educational aspect as well, educating the children, their family members and teachers about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. INMED Partnerships for Children volunteer Kristin Callahan, who helped guide the implementation of the aquaponic system, hopes that it will have a long-term impact of changing nutritional behavior in the area as well as inspiring others to employ sustainable agriculture techniques.
Callahan also noted the impact the aquaponic system has in the community, specifically in the schools. Students and teachers alike are eager to incorporate aquaponics into the curriculum. The community welcomes aquaponics and are excited to see the long-term benefits of the program. By introducing the educational aspect of the initiative, INMED hopes to create a long-lasting impact on the community.
The completed aquaponic system also plays an important role in the deworming initiative INMED is leading in Peru. The nationwide school-based program aims at alleviating the disastrous effects of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) that impact Peru, specifically soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), a type of intestinal parasitic infection. According to End7, a leader in the global campaign against NTDs, 3.5 million children in Peru are at risk for contracting STH. Hookworm, roundworm and whipworm are the major intestinal parasitic infections that deprive the children of the proper nutrition they need to grow and develop. The medicine for the deworming program is being donated by Johnson & Johnson and the initiative will work in hand with the aquaponics and other nutrition-related interventions. As Callahan says, “These initiatives happen in parallel.” The deworming initiative will help rid the community of STH while the aquaponic system will provide healthy, nutritional agriculture. Callahan, who spent three weeks last month volunteering in Peru with John Evans, notes three areas where the initiatives tie together:
- Educational—if the children know what nutritious food is and have it available, their diet will improve.
- Medicinal—the children have deworming medication available so they no longer have the parasite that is robbing them of their nutrition.
- Agricultural—by having an aquaponic system that is consistently providing fish, plants and healthy food that they can eat, they will have much better nutrition and health in the long run.
The educational, medicinal and agricultural aspects of the initiatives work together to create sustainable solutions to the affected areas in Peru. As part of the initiative, the children’s development is being monitored as well. While in Peru, Callahan and Evans observed biometric procedures that are being done to create a baseline for the observation. Overall, the study will take about 15-16 months to complete, allowing time to fully observe the effects of the aquaponics and deworming initiatives
Reflecting on their time in Peru, both Callahan and Evans describe the experience as a rewarding one. Hopefully, in a year’s time, the two will be able to return to Peru and witness first hand the impact of the aquaponics and deworming initiatives have on the community.
To read more about Kristin and John’s work in Peru, visit www.kristinandjohn.wordpress.com