Nobel laureate and renowned anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has agreed to lend his name to an ambitious agricultural initiative by Jacksonville-based FreshMinistries, Inc. to combat world hunger.
FreshMinistries, a non-profit organization under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III, will launch two aquaponics training centers in the months ahead as pilot projects, one in South Africa and the other in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as part of the newly christened “Desmond Tutu Program to End Global Hunger, a FreshMinistries Initiative.”
In a trip in September arranged through and accompanied by Kamele “Oupa” Seane, associate director of outreach for the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion at the University of North Florida, Dr. Lee visited South Africa to meet with Tutu to discuss specifics of the new initiative. Seane is a longtime friend and associate of Tutu who helped to arrange the donation of significant Tutu manuscripts to UNF earlier this year. He is also a member of the FreshMinistries board of trustees.
Aquaponics is a closed-loop system in which organic fish and produce are cultivated using significantly less space, 95 percent less water, and no soil. In addition, the systems are far more productive than traditional soil-based farming.
FreshMinistries has a 6,000 square-foot model facility operating in Jacksonville, and has received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build its 27,000 square-foot aquaponics training center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In South Africa, FreshMinistries will build a similar training facility in 2019 near Kruger Park, in partnership with Conservation South Africa and the Anglican Church. “We are very excited about the work ahead,” said Sabello Maschwama, Executive Director for FreshMinistries’ African Initatives. A decade ago, Maschwama managed FreshMinistries’ Siyafundisa Project, an HIV-AIDS education program that was credited with the saving or impacting the lives of 900,000 African youth, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. He will supervise and manage the aquaponics project in South Africa.