In Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, a new farming method shows the community that growing healthy vegetables is not only done in rich, nutrient-filled soil but also in plastic foam cups floating on small reservoirs of water.
When God created the world, he intricately weaved all things to work together. While its interdependence is often complex and hard to understand, TEAM missionary Dave Jereb is working on an aquaponics project that reveals more simply the connectedness of God’s design.
Aquaponics is a self-contained system that grows both vegetables and fish symbiotically. “The fish create the fertilizer for the plants, and the plants in return, because their roots stay along the water and absorb all the bad stuff out, clean the water for the fish,” Jereb explained. The system showcases God’s provision by providing nutritious, year-round food.
Jereb and his wife Cheryl minister at the Karanda Mission Hospital in Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, where there is a high risk of starvation. “We see children in here who are very malnourished, have all kinds of physical problems and lack of protein,” Jereb said. While Jereb primarily works maintenance at the hospital, he also built and maintains this aquaponic system.
His hope is to expand the project to supply food for the patients at Karanda Hospital first, then the students studying at the nursing school on the grounds, as well as build systems to provide food for those living in the surrounding villages. “We would love to train area people in aquaponics, teach them how to raise fish and crops, all the while incorporating the Word,” Jereb said. “I will be able to talk about how God produced this magnificent creation and how he’s incorporated everything, so they work together.”
Once the system is up and running, it only takes five liters of water a day and fish food to maintain. And the harvest is bountiful. “Because the vegetables are getting a steady flow of nutrients and all the water they need, they’re constantly growing,” he said. “They produce fruit within half the time it takes a normal plant to grow and produce. In addition, the fruit is bigger and more nutritious. “In a full season, you can probably grow about seven to 10 times the amount of produce than you could somewhere else,” Jereb said.
There’s only one hitch: building supplies. The standard materials used to build an aquaponic system, such as plastic foam and plastic netting, aren’t readily available — or are fairly expensive — in southern Africa. “We have to try to figure out how to do things without technology but do it in a technical way,” Jereb said. Seeking out ideas, Jereb often asks people from area villages about how to incorporate different methods and materials to build an aquaponic system. Suggestions range from bamboo to plastic Coke® bottles. “They can make almost anything into something here. So I’m sure they can somehow figure out a way. We hope to eventually incorporate everything so that they can do it without any [electricity] and just a little bit of work and manpower.”
While the project is still in its infancy, Jereb has many hopes for the creation care ministry. He looks forward to providing jobs and nutrient-rich food to the people of Zimbabwe. However, the heart behind raising fish and vegetables is Jereb’s desire to raise more knowledge of Christ and his love for people. “I hope that the people will be able to see the love of Christ through me, through the word that we will share with them while we’re training, and see that we love them and God loves them through us,” he said. “I want them to know that people care for them and that God lives here, he hears them, he hears their prayers and he does supply all their needs.”
- Written by Katie Honnette
- Photographed by Robert Johnson and Cheryl Jereb
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