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and destr uctive. The research revealed
aquaponics - a method of recycling
water in a fishpond through a grow-bed,
fer tilising the plants and coming back
to the tank as clean water. This was
so exciting that I enthusiastically built a
system in my back yard using just a few
readily available items. It all took only a
couple of hours to build.
This one-metre-square little garden, plus
20 fish and two yabbies, fed our family
for a year, using only 2,400 litres of water
and producing tomatoes (a water-hungry
plant), peas, beans, lettuce, bok choy
and cucumber s, with some wastage
through evaporation. This method uses
only one-tenth of the water required for
nor mal farming and produces five times
the quantity of food-bearing crops in the
Early in 2015, I was tr avelling in Bhutan,
a beautiful countr y racked with growing
pains. The cities are growing faster than
the infr astructur e can sustain and the
old problem of sewage and food security
looms : too much of one (untreated)
and not enough land to grow the other.
Bhutan's far ming area is only 2.9% of the
country, with the rest being mountains
So in both Africa and Asia , the
oppor tunity and need exist for aquaponic
agriculture to provide food security while
suppor ting infr astructur e and providing
Back in Austr alia, I had enthusiastically
shown my garden to everyone ! Some
asked for assistance to build their own,
resulting in more little 'farms'. People talk.
In May 2015, I received a phone call from
an organisation in Tasmania asking if I
could help with another little "aquaponics
thing" ? They had been given an old
garden nur ser y and had heard about
The process of restor ation for the
decrepit nur ser y garden was begun and
a week later saw the installation of the
fir st fish tank - an 11,000 litre monster.
This tank can contain a few hundred
trout which will suppor t over 168 square
metres of grow beds, catering for a
commercial size kitchen, supplying an
inter national school where aquaponics
will be taught to teams going out to build
systems and teach in developing nations.
The physical size of the garden is such that
the aquaponics system can ea sily expand
to provide even more food.
The old adage, "Learn, do, teach"
Tony Har ris shares experiences that echo
the injunctions of Pope Francis' recent
encyclical Laudato Si'.
It's an interesting, challenging idea : to
think of other s befor e we do something
and be prepared to change our behaviour
so that other s can benefit. Hmm, there
was a guy who said something like this
about two thousand year s ago, but
Recently I had the oppor tunity to
attend the Macau Dialogue for the
Global Coalition for Change (GCC),
an organisation that seeks to ser ve
NGOs worldwide by creating a global
community for change. This par ticular
meeting concentr ated on the needs in
the Asia Pacific region as one par t of its
The meeting was established to discuss
the oppor tunities for NGOs, NFPs,
commercial business and individuals to
collabor ate to achieve the UNESCO
Millennium Development Goals.
After only one year, the network of
par tner ships is already estimated to have
affected nearly 5 million people globally
by increasing the combined capacity of
individual member s.
The group is char acterised by:
By aligning with the various national and
UNESCO Education For All priorities,
the GCC is guided to suppor t the
marginalised communities in the various
focused projects without duplicating
So the challenge was to think globally, act
locally and change per sonally.
Over the last three year s my own
jour ney illustr ates this principle. Let me
share a story, from Africa to aquaponics
to Asia to Tasmania . In 2012, I was invited
to Kenya to conduct classes in computer
skills. The effect of the previous
colonisation was still prevalent with
most farms growing maize, sugarcane
or both, leaving little room for a good
variety of vegetables, although the
population seemed happy with ugali
(corn bread) and sukamawiki (fried
spinach). This bothered me so much
that on my return to Australia I began
researching better ways to produce food
in a mor e controlled and systematic way,
par ticularly when r ainfall is quite seasonal
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY,
Family members check on the backyard fish farm.
A long time ago I r an computer classes in
King Street, Newca stle. Centr elink sent
a young man for re-training. He had not
been able to get a job. Thinking he was
useless, this young man lived in a shack
in the bush, collected his 'dole' money
and wa s quite content to let the world
go by. Six months later he had passed
the exam and was ready to tr y again.
With confidence he set for th, not as
a computer per son, but with a dream
to influence positively, and ser ve, other
people. That man is now my Member
of Parliament. He thought larger than
himself, acted locally as a Council
member and changed personally to be
of ser vice.
So the challenge from the Macau
Dialogue provides food for thought.
What can we do that will affect people
at home, in the suburb, in the countr y,
everywhere? It doesn't have to be big.
It can begin with a one -metre -square
garden, with a book being read to a child
each night, with a simple act of continuing
kindness repeated sever al times.
Tony Harris is the Director,
Wombat Stories Pty Ltd. Please
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