Aquaponics is gaining significant interest as a means for subsistence farmers to adapt to climate change. INMED, however, is taking that a step further to provide food security, better nutrition, skills development and even income generation for schools in low-resource communities.
INMED’s aquaponics system at Laerskool Kempton Park, a full-service primary school that also accommodates the needs of children with disabilities, is the third such school-based system INMED Partnerships for Children and INMED South Africa have installed in partnership with Air Products.
“Air Products understands that nutritious meals at school directly affect school performance,” notes INMED South Africa Operations Manager Janet Ogilvie. “Both INMED and Air Products believe that the future of South Arica is in the hands of today’s kids, and for our country to be a healthy and prosperous place to live, we need to start with developing healthy children.”
In addition to the aquaponics system, INMED installed a traditional garden—with a twist. Because many of the students at Laerskool Kempton Park have disabilities or learning challenges, INMED South Africa installed a special sensory garden, featuring a barefoot walking path of various textures, water and sound walls, fragrant fruit trees and vines, brightly colored plants and garden toys. Teachers use the aquaponics system and the sensory garden as teaching tools and therapy for their students. And because aquaponics is not labour intensive and does not use chemicals or fertilizers, the children assist with the planting and harvesting as well as care and feeding of the fish.
Teachers repeatedly report that the aquaponics system and sensory garden have been instrumental in reaching children who do not integrate well into traditional classroom settings. And because the aquaponic system is wheelchair accessible, children with physical disabilities may participate alongside children without disabilities in hands-on learning.
These teachable moments are at the core of Air Products’ philanthropic endeavors. “Our corporate social investment strategy focuses on the youth and education, and INMED’s program proves to educate learners in a way that is enjoyable and rewarding for the learners,” says Air Products South Africa Managing Director Rob Richardson. “We find the continued partnership extremely rewarding.”
The produce and fish harvested from the system are incorporated into the school’s feeding schemes, with surplus donated to disadvantaged families whose children attend the school. Other school beneficiaries of Air Products and INMED aquqaponics systems are selling surplus produce for income.