Food for Life course in Madagascar to include Targeted Aquaponics Growth (TAG) training to encourage organic vegetable and fish farming utilizing a sustainable water recycling method

Toamasina, Madagascar, November 26, 2014: The Mercy Ships Nutritional Agriculture Program is partnering with Targeted Aquaponics Growth (TAG) to add another vital segment to its Train the Trainer Food for Life projects in Africa. TAG Aquaponic (AP) systems will become a part of this key capacity-building program of Mercy Ships. Food for Life seeks to improve food security by increasing the farming capacity of partner NGOs by training trainers, who then replicate programs in local communities. TAG’s goal is to partner with Mercy Ships to address malnutrition and hunger in developing countries by introducing AP systems technology and education.

Mercy Ships Food for Life ‘Train the Trainers’ Participants in Madagascar

“The partnership’s goal is to teach leaders in agriculture another way to produce food in a complete cycle. Nutrient-rich water from the fish tank is cycled into barrels full of gravel that have vegetables planted in them. The vegetables utilize the nutrients, producing crops from the water. Their roots and the gravel act as a bio-filter, purifying the water that is returned to the fish tank,” explained Mercy Ships Agriculture Program Administrator, Ken Winebark. “It is a great way to provide an organic, balanced diet of vegetables and fish, thereby contributing key nutrients for a healthful diet, thus building a healthy body that is capable of fighting off disease.”

The AP system uses a recycling process that is continually repeated. It uses 95 percent less water than traditional methods and cuts the germination time in half. This method produces 2-3 times the yield of traditional farming or standard greenhouse operations.

“TAG is very excited about this opportunity to use AP systems to change the nutrition and, therefore, the lives of people in developing nations through our partnership with Mercy Ships. The collaboration of our strengths provides a strong base from which to launch AP system training via the well-established Food for Life program. We expect this partnership to link our resources for the betterment of those in Africa who are at great risk and in need of sustainable food sources,” said TAG President and Co-Founder, Damon Arthur.

In Madagascar, Mercy Ships and the host partner Centre Fafiala have begun a 21-week course with 30 Malagasy participants from all over the island nation. The training will include a 40-hour TAG course on the installation of sustainable food supply AP systems; education in building, operations and maintenance; and training programs for local personnel. TAG will supply all of the equipment and will construct a two-node AP system with a solar panel electrical supply. Three additional follow-up trips will occur after the initial training program to install identical systems at identified locations. The long-term goal is to expand the systems into entrepreneurial ventures for local African communities. One of the Malagasy participants, Jean Baptiste, is a 35-year-old father of three boys. He is the president of a Farmers’ Cooperative of 750 farmers.

“As President of our cooperative, I am responsible for the farmers. I need to prepare myself in knowledge to share with them. Here, farmers need to change their mindset. It is most important for me as a technician to help them. I am ready to go,” stated Baptiste.

Most of the Food for Life trainers work with 50-200 farmers each and will continue to train others through regional NGOs, greatly multiplying efforts and building local capacity. Since 1997, the Mercy Ships Food for Life program improves general health through teaching sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and animal husbandry. Participants discover significantly improved methods of food production. They learn how to rebuild, restore, and renew their lives, land, communities and nations through holistic, organic agriculture development. Aquaponics will add another avenue for increasing access and availability to fresh, nutritional foods.

“Good food equals good health, and that’s what we are all about,” shared Winebark.



  ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:  Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Learn more about who we are.   For More Information: Contact: Laura Rebouche ́ U.S. National Media Relations Director Mercy Ships Office:+1 903.939.7000 Direct:+1 903.939.7127 Email: For Int’l: Diane Rickard International Media Relations Manager Mercy Ships Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships B-Roll video footage are available upon request.