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University of Johannesburg pioneering innovative use of aquaponics and sandponics to enable Food Justice for all

Professor Michael Rudolph of the Center of Ecological Intelligence is spearheading a program of inexpensive approaches to cultivating food gardens to address food insecurity issues in South Africa.

If you head up to the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Bunting campus and ask for the Center of Ecological Intelligence (CEI), you will be forgiven if when you get to the top of the hilly road, it’s located on and thinks you’re lost. However, if you persevere up what looks like an unassuming embankment to your left, you’ll see a small sign saying ‘Centre for Ecological Intelligence.’ Once up the embankment, you’ll find impressive-looking tunnel food gardens, aquaponics, and sandponics displaying hydroponic systems and green building structures, which are currently in progress; these form a part of UJ’s food justice program.

Professor Michael Rudolph is the director of CEI and is leading the university’s Food Justice program. According to Rudolph, it is important that the program’s work is ‘transformative,’ which is the basis of everything that they are doing. He says what is needed is an agricultural system that’s built on a foundation of innovation — one that allows for the very best mix of applied research, real-life grass-roots projects, and open dialogue about the complexities of food and nutrition security. This requires the implementation of a process of transformation at every level.

The once unproductive land occupied by the project has now been transformed through crop rotation and tillage management into nutrient-dense and rich soil; food waste, cut grass, and woodchips transformed into compost. Most importantly, according to Rudolph, people’s mindsets have been transformed from attitudes of disempowerment to ones of purpose, inspiration, and confidence.


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