Thanks to the support of our donors, we have been able to continue to bring sustainable farming to another family in the countryside. By implementing these aquaponic systems, we have been able to help empower local farmers free themselves from subsistence and provide them with a way to improve their family’s nutrition all year round.
It’s the rainy season, and it’s the perfect time to break ground for the gardens in the front of the campus! As the monsoon rains flood the land, the sandy-clay soil softens and allows us to continue turning the Community First Campus into a space for sustainable agriculture.
It’s the first day of Spring, and Community First is celebrating the season with our first crop of aquaponic strawberries!
Our team has been hard at work in the Cambodian countryside setting up the farm school and aquaponic systems at the campus. That work has paid off, and now we have over 100 strawberry plants thriving in the campus system.
One of our students even had the chance to taste his first strawberry!!
There are so many things to celebrate with us this year, as together we make it possible for people with limited water to provide more nutritious food for themselves and their families with the help of aquaponics!
Since 2009, Community First’s projects have brought a better quality of life for the villages in Sen Sok by drilling water wells, setting up biodigestors, teaching sewing skills, and providing agricultural training. Now with our aquaponic program fully underway, we plan to continue providing the best practices of agricultural development by moving into our building in Smach village.
Freshly pressed, red and sandy soil is finally laid into place after this year’s monsoon washed out a portion of the road. Driving down the bumpy surface, you can feel the tires further compact the soil beneath them. Stilted houses start to appear from behind rows of sugar palms as a herd of cows are guided past you. Lush fields of rice, ready for harvest, stretch all the way to the horizon as you travel the three kilometers from the main road to Smach village.
Meet the Sim family! The first of five families to benefit from our off-grid aquaponics program.
Fish play a key role aquaponics. They are the first essential living element introduced when starting a new system. Aquaponics, just like any other ecosystem, depends on the nitrogen cycle to convert nitrogen into available nutrients. Ammonia, a bi-product of the respiratory and digestive processes of fish, is the catalyst that starts the “cycling” of our system. As the fish breathe through their gills and excrete waste from their digestive tracts, the ammonia will build up in our aquaponic system. In high concentrations ammonia will kill fish. Thankfully, the presence of ammonia attracts the nitrifying bacteria that we need to cohabit our aquaponics system. The first of which are called nitrosomonas. The nitrosomonas will convert the ammonia in the water into nitrites, which is still toxic to fish. No need to worry though. Good news is that these nitrites will then attract another nitrifying bacteria called nitrospira. The nitrospira is the bacteria we are really after because they are the ones to turn nitrites into nitrates! And plants love nitrates! Nitrates are quickly absorbed by plants, making the excretions from our fish the perfect fertilizer.
In an educational and inspiring podcast on Nick Night’s The Profit Ability Show, Pierre Mainguy describes his journey from being an Los Angeles finance student engaged in venture capitalism to leading an international development NGO, Community First, in Cambodia.
For four years now the Community First had very productive relationship with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering. As part of this collaboration, the students have helped us with sustainable and innovative projects like solar dryers, solar sanitation, and using risk husk for aquaponics, as well as helping us with some engineering and technical drawings. This year we are lucky to welcome a talented and enthusiastic group of young change makers. Here is a little bit about them and their thoughts on the program.
This week in Sen Sok the Community First team came to fix the greenhouse that shelters our first family unit aquaponics system. Due to heavy rains, the original frame and screws bent under the weight of the water. Thanks to our generous donors we were able to purchase an arch welding kit to build a stronger structure to house our system.
It’s always a beautiful day of team building when the weather is 30 degrees Celsius and the humidity being up to 70%. With Pierre off to gather supplies, the rest of the team was able to deconstruct the greenhouse and take down all the broken beams. Next on the list was to weld the new roof pieces together. Our master craftsman, Romain, was able to find his groove and finished fusing all the beams for the roof by the end of the afternoon. It’s never an easy task working out in the villages in the hot sun, but our conversation lifted spirits and our team work kept us moving forward.
Keep an eye out for our post next week as we look forward to finishing up the roof and finally adding fish to our system!
Every dollar helps, and if you would like to contribute to our projects, please consider donating by pressing Donate below.