On June 7th, 2023, the Resident British Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, Ms. Lindsy Thompson; the Deputy High Commissioner within the British High Commission (BHC), Ms. Charley Williams and the BHC’s Political and Projects Officer, Mr. Kadeem Joseph, visited the National Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre for Persons with Disabilities (NVRCPD), which will serve as the site for the recently announced, Aquaponics for the Disability Centre Project.
Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January, the British High Commission has been working very closely on the Aquaponics for the Disability Centre Project with the Department of the Blue Economy and the NVRCPD. Both Departments currently fall under the portfolio in the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation and the Environment.
During Wednesday’s visit, the Director at the Centre, Mr. Regan Calliste expressed his enthusiasm for the project, which is being funded by the BHC. Through the initiative, 20 differently-abled individuals will be trained in the construction and operation of aquaponics systems. They will also benefit from the sale of produce and fish derived from the project.
The venture is also seen as a means to promote sustainable food production and entrepreneurship, whilst boosting inclusivity and knowledge sharing.
Mr. Calliste hopes that the project could be expanded in the future to include more participants.
The British High Commission (BHC) also expressed their commitment to the project and acknowledged the potential for replication in communities across Antigua and Barbuda. The Department of the Blue Economy is likewise very dedicated to this worthwhile project and will continue collaborating with the BHC and the NVRCPD to ensure a successful outcome.
Project Consultant, Mr. Bernardo Betances, who will oversee the construction of the system, also expressed his zeal to begin work on the exciting and worthwhile initiative. Mr. Betances has a wealth of knowledge and experience in building and maintaining aquaponics systems.
The primary benefits of aquaponics are:
- Environmentally responsible with low water usage and low power usage.This is very beneficial for Antigua and Barbuda as we often suffer from droughts and water shortage.
- The primary inputs to the system are fish food and water.
- Little to no chemical usage. Aquaponics requires no synthetic fertilizers and few pesticides.
- Many of the plants that thrive in an aquaponic system are very easy to grow.
- Low susceptibility to pests and diseases
- Timely crop turn around
- Increased crop production per square foot versus traditional farming
- Multiple crops and fish can be grown from the same system
- Fish can be harvested as an additional food or revenue source