Creative Hydroponics

How do artists contribute to sustainable development?  Often, it is just by being a part of the team and seeing places where they can contribute, as Kelly Finlaw demonstrated in her blog post. Being present is a first step in creative approaches to sustainable development.  On this Bolivian training service trip, BuildaBridge artists participated as students, learned new approaches to community development, and in the process of being present were able to contribute creatively to a Hydroponics pilot project.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.   It is not a new technology, but it is relatively unknown in many parts of the world.  There is growing interest in hydroponics as resources decrease, prices rise for food and energy, and people become interested in self-sustainability.

The work of House of Hope, and Mario Morales, has been to develop technologies that provide local communities of poverty with options for sustainability. Along with others around the world working in community development, Mario is introducing hydroponics.  Through the House of Hope, Mario has taken a solid strategy that is part of participatory development.  Over the past years his strategy has been to identify leaders, engage them in envisioning new approaches to community development, and empower them to lead effectively through training and ongoing support.  Working with these empowered and participating leaders of local ministries,  He follows the basic steps of participatory development.  His introduction of hydroponics is an excellent example.

  1. He and the leaders have research their communities.  Having lived and worked with over 70 programs related to the House of Hope in the past 15 years, leaders have had many discussions about the needs of their communities.  In addition, Mario, a social entrepreneur, has always experimented and started small, as is the case with hydroponics and cob. 
  2. In a design phase, he has built and practiced with ideas, like hydroponics, and during the week constructed a hydroponics system with materials that could be purchased locally.
  3. During the week, he implemented the project by inviting leaders to view his first system and learn how they could replicate.
  4. The evaluation will take place over the next year as he sees the success of the demonstration hydroponics system at the House of Hope and also how the system is replicated among the leaders of projects.

Hydroponics System

Mario and Richard visit a live fish vendor in the city market

He purchases a tank and Tilapia that will be used in the system

The tank is large enough for a small system.  While other types of fish containers can be used, the clear tank allows children and others to watch the fish grow.

Richard builds a stand for the fish tank.

Wood is purchased locally for the rock bed where plants will grow.

Mario and Richard make the rock bed.

The completed bed.

A plastic liner is added.  It must be able to hold water.

Gravel is also purchased locally

Gravel is added to the bed along with a pipe for water transfer between the fish tank and the rock bed.

Ready for action.

Four Tilapia are added to the tank.  In six months they will grow to eating size.

Enter the Artists

The visual artists decide to paint the rock bed frame that will be aesthetically pleasing and educational.  Music could also be helped to teach about the process.

The group meets to design the mini-mural

Replicating the design for understanding is important

In another area Callie and Liezbeth begin to compose a song.

On the Roof--Time for Solar Power

In keeping with the sustainable philosophy, Mario and Richard will install a solar panel on the roof that will power the pump in the system.

Materials. The solar panel is from the States, but can be purchased locally.  There are plans for producing solar panels as part of a House of Hope project.

Mario and Richard choose the North-South position on the roof for maximum sunlight.

The panels are wired to the tile roof.

Wire is then run down the house to the first floor.

Wire from the salar panels are connected to a 12V battery. The pump is connected and begins to pump water to the bed above.  Water then circulates and returns to the tank below.

Back to the Artists

Meanwhile Celeste and Gina transfer the mini-mural to the primed bed and begin painting.

Two days later the mural, with dimensional elements is almost complete.

Side panels still need to be completed.

The Fish Poop Song in Spanish teaches the process and benefits of hydroponics to raise both vegetables and fish for healthy eating.

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