– by Fernando Maldonado
A lot of things have happened since we received the grant to build an Aquaponics Demonstration System from the Lindbergh Foundation. A group of us went and came back from Australia where we learned about sustainability and networked with all kinds of people and organizations that are devoted to achieving this. After this amazing experience, we came back to Guatemala with fresh ideas, ready to build the aquaponics system with our first important task – find the most ideal location.
As we started looking for sites in places like schools and city parks, I started reminiscing about the community gardens that we visited in Australia and how I had envisioned them in Guatemala City – what an amazing asset to this country they would be….a couple of weeks went by and we were still looking for our future home to the project without much luck. One night I was out having a beer celebrating my good friend and business partner Jose’s birthday. At the bar I bumped into Oscar, a childhood friend that manages a Tilapia hatchery in Guatemala. We were catching up and I started telling him about the project. He had heard about the potential of aquaponics and started to get interested in the project. He gave me his number and told me to give him a call some time. Some days later I did. Oscar told me that 3 years ago he started working with the Foundation supported by the largest chain of supermarkets in Guatemala. They do all kinds of social work, including Tilapia farms for impoverished communities. He thought that the Foundation could be interested in our project. I asked him if he knew of a place in Guatemala City that could host our project. He then said that he had sold some tilapia to a community garden managed by the municipality here in the city and that it would be a good place to go ask. I was shocked to hear that such a place existed in Guatemala City!!
The next day I went to find this community garden. Sure enough it was amazing! It is high up in the mountains in zone 16 of Guatemala City. A nice neighborhood surrounded by a popular school, a hospital and a well known charity foundation. From the outside you could see papaya trees all over the place. As I walked through the gates, I noticed two greenhouses, some cement tanks with tilapia and a biodigestor. I was amazed with the place. I talked to the workers and got the tour of the place. They had chickenss, worm composting and a trail for people to walk around and regularly had school groups and visitors. I felt that this was the place perfect place to build our system and so we started discussing the possibilities. The municipality were more than happy to collaborate with us, and so we started planning…
I feel very happy about doing our project in the community garden. Their vision is closely aligned with ours and they are passionate about promoting and educating the public about sustainability. We are now having discussions with the municipality about deepening the collaboration and turning this site into Seres City Campus – a place where the public can come to learn sustainability in action, environmental leadership and alternatives to achieve healthier, more sustainable and thriving communities.
You can learn more about the aquaponics project by visiting this link.