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Archi-ponics: Hydroponics for Foreign Aid

Hydroponics systems could be the key to growing crops in difficult areas where children struggle to get enough to eat. Hydroponics systems could be the key to growing crops in difficult areas where children struggle to get enough to eat. Image credits: Homeros / Shutterstock.com

USAID is the U.S. organization that provides aid and outreach to foreign nations in need. In Lebanon, USAID is currently investing $34 billion in support of their agriculture and rural community industries. This aid is aimed at providing financing to business, improving trade relations, and improving productivity. A business partner of ours has visited some of USAID’s efforts in supporting agriculture in Botswana, Africa. The effort there was literally fruitless as she witnessed four failed attempts by AID workers and locals to replant seed and produce crops. The causes were poor soil quality, lack of water and irrigation systems and other reasons, caused by a lack of understanding of crop production.

Fortunately, it seems USAID is turning a corner with the integration and adaptation of technology in these under-privileged areas. In Lebanon, USAID has instituted an emphasis on greenhouses and hydroponics, with the hopes that this technology will establish a high value fruit, produce, and floral market. Although the floral market is not a necessity or a sought-after commodity in low-income regions, it does show a new way of understanding and investing by USAID. Our hopes should be that USAID not only utilizes this methodology in areas like Lebanon where some infrastructure exists, but in more deprived areas like Africa, on a more primitive level of simply feeding people. This will in turn boost the economy; eventually people can focus more energy beyond feeding themselves to creating products that can be sold.

Here in the U.S., we should look to the USDA, other federal agencies, and our local governments to follow the USAID lead and invest in hydroponic projects like this at home, putting people back to work in agriculture in food deserts in the inner cities.

Here in the U.S., we should look to the USDA, other federal agencies, and our local governments to follow the USAID lead and invest in hydroponic projects like this at home, putting people back to work in agriculture in food deserts in the inner cities. This would create a much more viable agriculture industry than the industrial model we currently rely on, which provides very few opportunities for most Americans. This would be a bold move but a perfect addition to President Obama’s job package. The key would be, not to give the money away to individuals or business looking to apply hydroponic and greenhouse technology, but to invest it and expect a return. This provides something more than employment opportunities - the opportunity for taxpayers to make a monetary return by paying off the initial investment plus interest.

Government subsidies are only a short-term solution to the problems facing industries. Those that can make a return and pay off their debt, just as businesses in the free markets are expected to do, show sustainability. And that’s the key to a better future.

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Colin & Karen Archipley are hydroponics experts.
Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 16:50

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