Matantas Aquaponics Trial
August 2016, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Duration: 3 days
Two Llamas sought to investigate the issues that may arise if aquaponics was introduced to remote Ni-Vanuatu villages such as Matantas.
Although many villages in Vanuatu have rich volcanic soils, there are also many that have sandy, salt-soaked soils and limited access to water.
Aquaponics is also being considered as a possible means to increase food security across the nation as plants grow up to 4x faster than using traditional methods and the fish provide an alternative source of protein.
Additionally, aquaponics may provide landless Ni-Vanuatu people with a means to grow crops for market in limited space and without reliance on fertilisers.
The village of Matantas is located in the north of the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. It backs on to the country's only National Park; the UNESCO World Heritage listed Vatthe Conservation Area.
Matantas a remote village without town water, electricity, piped sewerage, or basic facilities such as shops. Luganville - located 90 - 120 minute's drive away, is the closest town.
Matantas is home to approximately 250 residents and the only opportunity for employment in the village is as a teacher in the local primary school or processing copra.
As there are no shops, there is little need for a cash economy. However, education remains an expense parents face, and hence there is a desire for small-scale sustainable economic development that allows adults to remain on traditional lands.
The project was implemented with the assistance of Vanuatu Agricultural College (VAC), to provide adult students with a learning experience and the project owner with follow-up support.
Systems were expected to fail; giving students the opportunity to innovate and problem solve with limited resources.
The aquaponics project was set up using solar as the energy source and it was hoped that PVC piping and plastic grow baskets would eventually be replaced with fat bamboo and small woven grow baskets.
Plant species trialled were: tomatoes, mint, coriander, basil and lettuce; all of which are in demand by hotels and restaurants along the East Coast Road and in Luganville
Hardware Santo Hardware VT18,358
Bricks Santo Earthworks VT1,800
Solar GreenTech VT45,450
Pump Practical Aquaponics AU$62.6
Repairs budget VAC VT5,000
Transport Joyle 4WD Rental VT24,000
Hardware Stacks AU$15.9
Hardware Stacks AU$20.4
Currencies: Australian Dollars and Vanuatu Vatu.
Funding was primarily provided by SUP Wilderness Adventures and Rotary International.
Matantas was chosen as - though disadvantaged by distance - the village has access to clean water from the river and a dirt road connects it the East Coast Road and Luganville.
A project owner (the Chief's illiterate son), was nominated as project owner.
Approximately 30 adult students attended two days of lectures where the basic principles of Aquaponics were explained.
Additional work was conducted at the fisheries ponds of VAC to teach students how to measure water quality and acidity.
A full day was then spent in the field at Matantas, building the system.
Stability of the system
Independence of the operator
Yield for market
Although initially, the system remained stable, within two weeks, the power source had failed., leading to a total failure of crops.
Remote assistance was provided to the project owner, yet this failed to resolve the issue.
As such, it was decided to disassemble the system and relocate it to the VAC Luganville campus so that hands-on support could be provided.
In addition, SUP Wilderness Adventures provided a scholarship to cover 50% of the cost for the Chief;'s son to attend a more in-depth course in Aquaponics at VAC; (the community contributing the remaining 50%.)