Project Lead(s): Schery Umanzor
Food shortages from insufficient local agriculture can lead to malnutrition, starvation and developmental deficits in children.
In many poorer developing nations, food shortages are mainly caused by a lack of technology needed for higher yields found in modern agriculture, such as nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation.
The project team’s idea was to develop a sustainable system of crop production in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, growing traditional land crops on floatation over freshwater lake surfaces.
Different land crops, aquatic plants and cropping techniques in floatation were tested.
The goal was to determine which land crops showed greater ease of handling, faster growth and public acceptance.
The team explored the potential use of fast-growing, native aquatic plants, such as water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) for biofuel (as an alternative to wood typically used for cooking) and tested several flotation systems for farming.
The project demonstrated that it is possible to grow terrestrial crops in a floatation system without the need for additional freshwater besides that used to compensate for plants evapotranspiration processes.
Selected crops, which included tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, corn, rice and beans, efficiently grew up to harvest without additional water requirements.
The project encouraged community members to become interested in farming using the lakes.
Knowledge of the project was shared with several groups, including governmental institutions, universities, private companies and community members.
Interest was shown in supporting the operation, either for self-consumption, commercial purposes, community relief and/or research.
In Nicaragua, Puerto Momotombo local cooperative members are interested in receiving training, with particular interest in integrating women in the productive activity, which will aid their income while offering products that are usually imported from other towns. On the other hand, in Costa Rica the team will continue working with a local small business that is currently producing lettuces for commercialization.
Some universities are interested in the whole new set of research opportunities that include not only quantifying the production yield capacity, but also considering the ecological, social and economic effects of having large areas of floating agriculture.