Following is a post from 2014 PovRes intern Sarah Kelly:
At local orphanages in Haiti, the children are regularly taken in because they are severely malnourished, and the owners often struggle to bring the children back to health. Food scarcity is a fundamental setback in Haiti. People lack basic nutrients in their diet—especially protein. At Poverty Resolutions, we are always seeking sustainable solutions to food scarcity, and, in 2013, we discovered tilapia farms as a low maintenance, lasting means to provide protein for local Haitians.
We met with tilapia expert Dr. Jay Stauffer from Penn State University in order to design the farm as sustainably as possible. Essentially, our tilapia farm design consists of one large pool of water, with nets dividing the water into three separate pools. The three pools allow the smaller fish to swim through the nets away from the larger, more fully grown fish, so the older fish won’t eat the younger ones. We found we could be more efficient by feeding chicken overtop the tilapia pool. Using this method, overseers feed only the chicken rather than both the chicken and the fish. Chickens have trouble digesting their food, so many of the nutrients are not absorbed, and the fish actually consume the chicken excrement as an extremely nutritious food source.
The farms are a practical solution to Haitian malnutrition because tilapia can survive in the hot weather, grow quickly, taste good, and the pools require only simple upkeep. Tilapia are able to survive in either fresh or salt water, which allows us to use salt water to help fight bacteria. The filtration system on the pools is low maintenance, and the tilapia farm has three specialized, simple filters, each with a specific purpose for fighting bacteria. Additionally, our design has a solar powered aeration system, allowing oxygen to spread throughout the pool so the fish are able to breathe.
After about six months, the fish are ready to harvest. At this point, the fully developed fish are placed into a separate pool with no chickens above, allowing the chicken excrements to clear out of their system. The cost upkeep of a tilapia farm is surprisingly low since only one animal is typically fed. The farm provides fish, chicken, and eggs to consume and to sell to the community.
In 2013, Poverty Resolutions partnered with a local orphanage to build a tilapia farm, with the intention that the orphanage would become self-sustaining and the farm upkeep would provide jobs for the orphans. We are considering building another tilapia farm as part of our current Transition Center project.