Top ranking American school, Temple University has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and three other Nigerian universities to train students on aquaponics. This is line with its efforts at combating desertification in Nigeria.
Other universities involved are Yobe State University, University of Maiduguri and Modibbo Adama University of Technology. Temple’s newspaper, The Temple News reports that these institutions were selected by the College of Engineering in the school because they are located across the “bread basket” region of sub-Saharan Africa. Particularly, the lands around them are fertile for large amounts of wheat and grains to be produced.
EduCeleb.com recalls that a team from the institutions visited Temple to see towards ensuring that fertile lands transforming into desert as a result of drought and poor agriculture are revivified.
A 2015 research work in the Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment shows that desertification was threatening 64 percent of land in Africa with no strategies on ground to combat the menace of desert encroachment in Nigeria.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, which means that the raising of aquatic animals in tanks and the cultivation of plants in water are done in a symbiotic environment.
Aquaponics systems raise fish and grow plants in one integrated, soil-free system. The waste from fish provide the plants with an organic food source as the plants filter the water for the fish. This system avoids pesticides, weeds, pests, water waste and other problems associated with soil-based gardening.
Plans are already on top gear at the College for it to have a fully operational aquaponics system inside a container by August, 2018 that would be beneficial to the universities.
Director of STEM Education, Outreach and Research at the school, Jamie Bracey noted that that was the first time in Temple’s history that a college would be entering into a formal agreement with institutions in Africa. She added that the MOUs were formal but not legally binding agreements, with each of the Nigerian universities.
Temple’s Dean in the College of Engineering, Keya Sadeghipour, explained that determining each institution’s goals preceded the signing of the agreements.
The agreements, if implemented would ensure that postgraduate students from the partnering universities proceed to Temple University to finish their degrees in STEM, while also learning medical and engineering skills.
Dr Bracey also added that his university equally signed agreements with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to help develop agricultural systems, like aquaponics systems, in Northern Africa. Michigan State University and Clark Atlanta University have also asked to be partners on this project.
Meanwhile, she also disclosed that negotiations were ongoing to take medical and engineering students from the Nigerian universities to Temple so that they will be trained by the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.
Alumnus facilitated the partnership
A Nigerian alumnus of Temple, Yusuf Bashir facilitated the need for the partnership between the universities. Mr Bashir who graduated from the Electrical Engineering department in 2004 identified his country’s need for improved agricultural systems and discussed this with Bracey.
“Bashir was interested in changing the agriculture in his home country through engineering with aquaponics systems, which would allow them to grow crops indoors,” Bracey said.
Back in August 2017, Bashir flew an eight-man delegation from Kaduna, Nigeria, to Temple during which the university hosted a full day of workshops about how they can support the programs in North Philadelphia and Kaduna. Bracey revealed that the delegation visited again four times after then.