Pilot Project 2017 - A Summary
The purpose of our project was to see whether aquaponic farms could ever be used in Madagascar as a way to generate funds for conservation projects, while also addressing environmental issues themselves. In order to do all these things, we had hoped to to generate a report that, with several harvest's data, will show what crops we can produce and how quickly. If we can produce enough food that the farm is worth the cost of construction, we can justify building more farms.
We built a small farm in the region of Makira National Park, in the north of Madagascar. This park is not only home to a massive range of frogs and reptiles, it is home to the largest range of lemurs species on the island. It is an area with a quickly increasing population, yet still struggling with many of the problems seen across Madagascar: hunger, deforestation and poaching. Building here not only allowed us space to grow had we been as successful as hoped, but also gave us ready access to agricultural equipment and vanilla vines.
Unfortunately, while we were able to build a farm and plant it successfully with vanilla, an outbreak of bubonic plague in the immediate area then forced us to abandon the project for our own safety. Although this was very frustrating, what we did learn has informed our newer projects in farming vanilla which are now up and running. If you would like to learn more about this project or any of our other work, check out our blog!
Although not able to continue the farm as far as we had hoped, by building it where we did we did discover which materials were and weren't readily available for future projects. This allows us to design our future farms bearing in mind what can reasonably be obtained in the area. More than ever it is our eventual goal to design a farm that can be flat-packed for easy transportation and construction.
Although we were unable to grow vanilla to completion and thus do not currently know what kinds of yields we could expect from using this method, our project has shown that the plants do grow quicker than traditional methods - an encouraging sign. As result, we have since built a second, smaller farm to measure how large a harvest would be. When this begins to generate, it will not only pay for it itself, but allow us to expand and explore other avenues.
Studying the Market
One of the other reasons for being based in Andapa was to study how vanilla was traditionally grown and transported. In the time that we were in Andapa we were able to see that while the current system allows for a range of local and artisanal methods to flourish, it is often also unsanitary, sporadic and inefficient. This will certainly informs us as we move forward with our own projects in the future.