Sunday, August 25, 2013

Here We Grow Again!

Greetings again from the D.R. and blessings to all of you from Mike and Laura.  With the activities of summer winding down at Rio Vista Guest House, we find ourselves with a little bit of time on our hands.  As most of you know when you have a little time it can be lost as quickly as we found it, so we must make the best of spare moments when we can.

Our goals here in the D.R. are simple; to be of service in God's Kingdom in what ever capacity we find our talents lie.  In some cases we apparently have little or no talent for some things, but we push forward with a willing heart and an open mind.  Invariably God always brings someone else along to assist us if we find ourselves in over our heads.

So we have decided to place effort into our available time and move forward with a new project we are excited about!  This project will not take us away from our work at the Guest House in fact it will surely enhance the environment and experience for all the Mission teams who use the facility.

Some time ago Laura and I were approached by fellow missionaries from our new church here in Sosua, asking us if we could be involved in a "pilot project" with them.  They needed a piece of land to develop an idea (which we have) and they in turn would assist in support for the project with design and materials.  Suffice to say that when we discovered they wished to start a pilot project which could produce fruit and vegetables in a sustenance program for remote villages near us, we were very interested.

Now this is still a hotly debated subject within the Mission World, however research has proven beyond a doubt that if you provide the means for a man to help feed his family instead of simply giving him a handout for the rest of his life, he will most likely become more self-sufficient and live better.  The handout of food simply creates a dependent society, that will ultimately sink them further into poverty.  Of course, there must be several conditions for this "pilot project" to be successful going forward, especially in a village where resources are hard to come by.

First let me explain the concept  for the "pilot project".  The concept here is to provide a system from which a man can operate with minimal supervision that will grow his vegetables and fruits faster and bigger than he could before; if he could before.  Traditional farming methods work when a man has access to land, then he only requires tools to become successful.  Hydroponics is the production of ground crops using an irrigation system to provide the necessary nutrient for the food; typically foods are still grown in the ground which then has to be fertilized over time.  Hydro systems usually require a lot of ground or greenhouses to produce good crops.

Our "pilot project" uses the concept of Hydroponics only without the use of soil as a growth medium.  Aquaponics is a relatively new concept but not entirely unproven in the world.  Essentially an Aqua Project requires a nutrient rich water source, in our case a fish pond, and a grow table through which the nutrient rich water can flow.  It is a well know fact that fish waste in fresh water is a very good source of nutrient for ground crops.  One of the best tropical fish for the project is Tilapia; a freshwater/warm-water fish.  The Tilapia can thrive in a small tank system because they are considered a bottom feeder species.  In other words, they eat the moss and algae that grows on the rocks in a pond.  They also grow extremely fast and produce a large amount of waste each day.  The waste forms the nutrient stock within the water system.  In turn, the water from the pond can be moved into a growth table where you have your plants.  Plants are suspended above the table with only their roots reaching into the water.  In this way the plants draw the necessary nutrients for growth directly from the water; because the water is heavy with fish waste the plants can grow up to twice a fast and produce fruits or vegetables much larger than normal.  The grow table can be easily expanded to contain a variety of crops and virtually any kind of vegetable an fruit can be grown only in water!

Our project starts of course with a water source containing fish, in our case a large fish pond dug into the ground behind the Guest House.  Once the pond is filled and stocked with tilapia fry, the grow tables can be constructed using cheap PVC tubing.  The tubes are cut in half to become open channels through which the water will flow; all that is required is a small pump to move the water from the pond to the grow tables.

Once the pond is dug out it will be lined with concrete and rocks so we can maintain its shape.  A waterfall will be constructed at the far end.  The waterfall puts oxygen into the water for the fish.  Ducks and geese must be introduced into the system to provided extra nutrient for the fish.

This side view shows the side of the pond ready for grass.  A small bridge will be constructed over the pond so people have access to the garden area.

This area will be used for the greenhouse which will have the grow table inside.  An open-air greenhouse is all that is required; plants grow best with direct/indirect sunlight.

Once we are ready our first crop will be tomatoes and zucchini, two favorite foods here.  Later we will develop a smaller system that is affordable and can be easily funded.  We have several locations where we can test these systems for the local people.  These systems not only provide fresh foods, they are a sustainable system for revenue for a small village.  Each system can be expanded to produce vegetables, fruit and fish for sale to the public.  The entire system will require very little funding to become operational and the benefits are far reaching for the communities we can help.
More information will be forthcoming on this project; first we have to develop a working system here at Rio Vista and then we can "tweak" the bugs out of it to end up with a working prototype for the Mission Field.  Your prayers are welcome as we walk through this project in its infancy. 

Drop us a line if you have any questions or feedback!

Mike and Laura