Rhisotope Project Update: Aquaponics unit launched in Eastern Cape

Moscow– Following the success of Phase 1 of the Rhisotope Project the next exciting aspect, the community outreach initiative, is underway. On the 16th of November a largescale aquaponics unit, situated in Paterson was launched.

Scientifically, Phase 1 of the Rhisotope Project demonstrated that radioisotopes deposited into the horn of the rhino, remain in the horn and do not move back into the animal. This demonstrates that the project will be safe for the animals, marking a very key milestone in the project. Phase 2 of the innovative project is planned to commence in January 2022.

“The Rhisotope Project has reached the first major milestone in being able to demonstrate to the regulator, the university’s animal ethics committee, and stakeholders in the welfare of rhinos that it is completely safe for the animals”, said Dr. James Larkin, Director of Radiation and Health Physics Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Founder of the Project.

However, making scientific discoveries that can deal with a problem and save the species is only part of the deal. Another important job is to engage with the locals to help raise awareness of the issue. It is common knowledge that no species can be protected unless local communities and stakeholders play an active part in this process.

Therefore, as part of the Rhisotope Project, a community outreach programme is vital. The founding sponsor of the Rhisotope project, Rosatom launched the aquaponics unit, as well as the education programme in the Eastern Cape. The Aquaponic system was installed by leading aquaponic specialists La Pieus Aqua. The local company is renowned for installing systems at schools, community projects, and sites around Africa. The CEO of LPA is an 18-year-old ecology activist Rikalize Reinecke, who started her own aquaculture and aquaponics farm in 2014.

“Aquaponics is the most innovative farming method of the new century. This system gives you the opportunity to process food in your backyard and generate an income. One system can feed a family of four to six people sustainably”, – said Ms. Reinecke.

The aquaponics unit is now run by local volunteers in collaboration with The Amakhala Foundation which recently won the prestigious Rhodes University Community Engagement Partner of the Year Award. All produce from the greenhouse will go to feed the families of the local volunteers, supply healthy and nutritious vegetables to a local soup kitchen and orphanage, as well as selling fresh produce to local lodges to keep the system sustainable. The first harvest from the unit has already been sold to the nearest Safari Lodge and generated its first income. The programme is also meant to help to build and encourage entrepreneurial and business development opportunities for the volunteers.

Further to this, local school children will also benefit from the project. The benefits will take the form of presentations on the Rhisotope Project and why rhinos matter in their everyday lives. The informative lectures will be enhanced and supplemented by supplying the learners with educational support materials.

Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, a regional office of the Russian state energy corporation, is the key partner of the project. Its CEO, Ryan Collyer, is confident that this aquaponic unit is going to make a difference in the daily lives of this community. Mr. Collyer also pointed out that the development of aquaponics is key to food security in the long term. According to him, the aquaponics principle is based on the concept of sustainable development and environmental responsibility, which is directly in line with Rosatom’s core values.