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Lake Victoria RAS pilot aims to get more women into aquaculture

April 21, 2020  By  Nestor Arellano

VicInAqua pilot RAS project. (Image courtesy of Jan Hoinkis)

Shared by East African countries Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and covering an area of over 68,800 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is considered to be the world’s largest inland fishery environment.

The lake holds a huge potential of solving the food production challenges of the region. An ongoing recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) pilot program in Lake Victoria aims not only to optimize the use of the lake’s water for agriculture but also get more women involved in a promising aquaculture sector, according to the European Commission.

VicInAqua is a medium-scale research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. Eleven partners from seven European and African countries are working together through the project to develop an integrated approach to water management. The project is also using treated domestic wastewater to supply a RAS facility in the Lake Victoria region.

Getting more women involved

“A RAS requires little land, can be used close to home, and is perceived as far less dangerous than capture fishing in the eyes of the local community,” according to a post in the European Commission website. “As a result, women are much more involved. However, despite their leading role, issues concerning women and gender are largely absent from the conversation.”
VicInAqua conducted several roundtable discussions on the issue, exploring a road map for better integration of women in aquaculture through “participatory consultation.”

“Thanks to partnership with DALF (Department of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries of Kisumu County, Kenya), the pilot plant will be maintained and operated as a training and demonstration facility, constituting a sustainable legacy,” said project coordinator Jan Hoinkis of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences.

The team has prepared handbooks to help stakeholders with daily use and maintenance of the technologies.

MBR and smart technology

“The pilot built in Kisumu, Kenya, combines an innovative membrane bioreactor (MBR), utilising commercial and custom-developed anti-fouling membranes with a RAS,” according to  Hoinkis. “The RAS, located next to a wastewater stabilization pond, can recirculate 90-95 per cent of its water volume.”

He said the MBR and RAS are integrated with smart monitoring technologies and renewable energy sources. The MBR-treated water is used for irrigating a variety of local vegetables and natural by-products are used as fertilizers in agriculture.
Since the pilot plant has RAS capacity four to five times greater than originally planned, its operation will significantly reduce pollution, enhance fish production and improve food security in the region.

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