Can a new way of farming help a community?

Sakhiwe Shongwe + Bonkhe Mahlalelar, Swaziland, 2012 award winners

Sakhiwe and Bonkhe in Swaziland.

Meet Sakhiwe and Bonkhe, two curious students who live in a small town in Swaziland. Sakhiwe volunteers in his community’s environmental projects, giving him a greater understanding of how things work. Paired with Bonkhe’s love for science, the two joined forces to try and solve one of their community’s biggest issues: the effects of drought conditions on farming.

If you are well equipped with knowledge, you can have more input with the things around you.

Because of recurrent droughts, most Swaziland farms aren’t producing enough food each year.

With inspiration from their science teacher, Mr. Sithole, Sakhiwe and Bonkhe believed they could come up with an affordable solution to help their farming community.

Sakhiwe and Bonkhe in the classroom with their teacher, Mr. Sithole.

The discovery

They turned to hydroponic farming, a method of growing produce without soil. Traditional hydroponics are far too expensive, so they set out to create a cheaper option – one that uses natural resources that farmers already have on hand. Their method uses local organic waste as soil, waste cartons as garden containers, and a nutrient solution made up of chicken manure. And they did it all without harming the environment with harmful chemicals like fertilizers.

After 31 days

Subsistence Farming 19.061 kg
Unique Simplified Hydroponics 140% increase!

The test

Testing out their solution could make or break their entire idea. They compared their Unique Simplified Hydroponics Method (USHM) method against how farmers typically grow produce, called Subsistence Farming Method (SFM). For each method, they measured growth rate, time to harvest, economic impact, and time and resources used. Not only did their USHM far surpass SFM in every category, it also increased produce production by 140%.

The outcome

Sakhiwe and Bonkhe’s idea created a sustainable way for farmers to produce food for their families and ultimately all of Swaziland. This could eliminate the need for food aid and have a huge impact on their community and beyond.